Pac-12 Coaching Turnover: Montgomery Out; Kent In; Robinson Holds

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on April 1st, 2014

At the end of the Pac-12 Tournament, it seemed like we would get through this offseason with just one Pac-12 head coaching change – Washington State, where Ken Bone’s five-year run in Pullman was coming to an end. There was some smoke around the status of Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson, but conference commissioner Larry Scott seemed to put a damper on that notion prior to the Pac-12 title game when he announced that Robinson and his staff would be coaching a team of barnstorming Pac-12 stars in China later this year. Elsewhere around the conference, it seemed like continuity was the rule of the day.

In 32 Seasons as a Division I Head Coach, Montgomery Had Just One Losing Season (Ben Margot, AP)

In 32 Seasons as a Division I Head Coach, Montgomery Had Just One Losing Season (Ben Margot, AP)

Then on Sunday, as college basketball fans were enjoying a day of great Elite Eight competition, word snuck out that the dean of Pac-12 coaches, Mike Montgomery, was weighing the possibility of stepping down from his position at California. That possibility became a fact on Monday when Montgomery announced his retirement. His accomplishments are legion, including 32 seasons of Division I basketball coaching and winning records in 31 of those campaigns. In 1986, he took over a Stanford program that hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in 45 years and was coming off a 23-loss season and turned it into an NCAA Tournament team in just his third season there. All told, there were 12 NCAA Tournament bids at Stanford (including at least one NCAA win in his last 10 seasons on The Farm), one trip to the Final Four (1998, behind Arthur Lee, Kris Weems, Peter Sauer, Mark Madsen and Tim Young), an Elite Eight, and 677 career wins. He coached in the Pac-12 for 24 years and ranks third on the all-time wins list in conference play behind only Lute Olson and John Wooden. He retires as the best coach in Stanford basketball history and the best coach at Berkeley since the legendary Pete Newell.

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Morning Five: 04.01.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2014

morning5

  1. South Florida appears to have its next coach and hopefully he has completed the coursework that he says he has. Yesterday, the school announced that Orlando Antigua would be its next head coach. Antigua is expected to continue to serve as an assistant at Kentucky through their Final Four run. The deal, which is reportedly five years, adds Antigua to a growing Calipari coaching tree that already includes Josh Pastner, Derek Kellogg, and Bruiser Flint. Antigua is best known for spearheading Kentucky’s recent ridiculous recruiting run. He will not be recruiting anything close to the same caliber of player in Tampa, but getting better players into the program will be the first step in making it respectable.
  2. Antigua is just getting his head coaching career started while across the country Mike Montgomery appears to have decided to end his. Yesterday, Montgomery announced that he would be stepping down as the coach at California and retiring. Montgomery coached at three schools–California, Stanford, and Montana–for 32 seasons and in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors for two seasons. Outside of his time in the NBA during which his teams went 34-48 in each of his two seasons, Montgomery was very successful at all three schools he coached at going 677-317, but will be best remembered for making Stanford into one of the top programs in the country before he left the Farm to head to the NBA.
  3. Staying in the Pac-12, Washington State announced that it hired former Oregon coach Ernie Kent to be its next head coach. After having a degree of success under Tony Bennett (not exactly shocking anymore) the Cougars went through a rough patch with Ken Bone, who was fired after five seasons. With his 13 seasons at Oregon, which included two Elite 8 appearances, Kent would appear to be ideally suited to compete in the Pac-12. Having said that perhaps the biggest key for Kent was his relationship with athletic director Bill Moos, who had hired Kent to his first head coaching position at St. Mary’s.
  4. Former Arizona star Jason Gardner (last seen having this done to him by Jason Williams–seriously, no foul was called on that) was named as the new coach at IUPUI yesterday. Gardner is best known for his time at Arizona, but he subsequently played overseas before serving as an assistant at Loyola then Memphis. Outside of his professional experience and name recognition, Gardner also was a Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1999, which could serve him well as he tries to recruit within the state although he will have an uphill battle trying to get recruits over much more well-known in-state schools.
  5. We had two players announce that they were entering the NBA Draft yesterday. One had been expected for over a year while the other one was a bit of a surprise. The first (and obvious) one was Andrew Wiggins, who announced that he would be leaving Kansas after his freshman season. Wiggins’ draft stock may have dropped from what it was before the season (an unquestioned #1 overall pick), but he is still a top-five pick at worst. The announcement out of Missouri was a little more surprising as Jordan Clarkson has elected to enter the NBA Draft after his junior season. While Clarkson’s numbers this season may have been close to what Wiggins put up, he is closer to a late first round pick at best so this might end up backfiring on him if he were to slip into the second round.
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NIT and CBI Reaction: Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) & Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 18th, 2014

Three Pac-12 teams that were not invited to the NCAA Tournament ended up receiving NIT or CBI bids. Let’s break them down in this instareaction format.

California – NIT, #2 seed in SMU Quadrant, vs. Utah Valley, 3/19, 7:30 PM PT - The Golden Bears had something of an argument for the NCAA field of 68, but nobody winds up all that shocked that they’re on the outside looking in. So, now, rather than playing for a national championship (at least in theory), Mike Montgomery and company have to shift gears and find something else to play for over their remaining games. For seniors like Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, such a shift will be difficult, as the NIT is clearly not where those guys hoped to be ending their careers. But, for youngsters like Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, and Sam Singer, and even junior Ricky Kreklow, whose career has been limited some by injury problems, maybe they can use the NIT as a springboard towards the inevitably larger roles that they’ll have to take on next season. As for match-ups, they will get a Utah Valley team in the opener that they should be able to outclass on talent alone, but beyond that, they will need to begin bringing their A-games, as either Arkansas or Indiana State could give them a serious push in the second-round game.

California Highlights The Pac-12's Representation In The NIT

California Highlights The Pac-12′s Representation In The NIT

Utah – NIT, #5 seed in Minnesota’s Quadrant, at Saint Mary’s, 3/18, 8:00 PM PT, ESPN2 – The Utes got jobbed. Plain and simple. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Going by the eye test, this team should have been one of the first four or five left out of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the NIT selection committee relied far too much on strength of schedule and relegated Utah to a first round road game. Saint Mary’s, who most projected to barely sneak into the NIT, receives a better seed and will host the Utes. The Gaels finished fourth in the WCC and fell to Gonzaga in the semifinals of their conference tournament. They opened the year at 9-0, then went to Honolulu, got distracted by the beach, and fell hard from the ranks of the unbeaten. First came a loss against South Carolina. Then Hawaii nipped them, and then George Mason did the same on Christmas morning. And after sneaking past Pacific a few days later, they went up to Spokane and got hammered for a 22-point loss against the Zags. Things have been up and down since, with a little more good than bad, and the Gaels enter the NIT at a 22-11 clip.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 7th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. At this point last season, UCLA sat at 22-7 and head coach Ben Howland was a dead man walking. The Bruins came into yesterday’s game at Washington with the same exact record, but the coaching situation could not be more different (no matter what Bruins Nation might say). Steve Alford has stepped up the program’s recruiting presence locally, and with the players having fun, the team is definitely going in the right direction. They’ve picked up big wins against the likes of Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon, and while those haven’t exactly translated into an uptick in attendance, I don’t know if any coach could change that. He’s also got one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year running point guard in sophomore Kyle Amderson, who is helping things immensely in Westwood. The Bruins will close the regular season Saturday night at Washington State. They’ll look to protect the #5 seed that Joe Lunardi currently projects them as.
  2. UCLA improved to 23-7 on the 2013-14 campaign with a 91-82 road win in Seattle last night. Washington actually led 45-41 after an offense-filled first half before the Bruins woke up. Tied at 64 with a little over ten minutes remaining, Kyle Anderson put home a layup to put the visitors in front. That would initiate an 11-3 run, giving them just enough separation to put the Dawgs down. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams dropped a career high 31 points in the victory, which clinched the #2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament for Alford’s squad.
  3. Last February, Adidas unveiled these insane uniforms for six teams to use in the postseason, including UCLA. So when I heard yesterday that the company was rolling out another set of special March uniforms, I was excited to see what was in store. They decided to go with a much more subdued approach this time around, but the results are still decent. You can view the two Bruin jerseys here, and the rest of the set at this link.
  4. A lot of teams suffer some type of burnout at this point in the season, but few have seen a collapse like California this season. The Golden Bears have lost four of their last five, two at home, and all by an average of 17.5 PPG. “Emotionally, we’re really spent,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “We’re having a hard time emotionally sticking with this thing right now.” If you’re looking for a #HOTBRACKETTIP, you may want to avoid picking these guys very deep in a couple of weeks.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for the final weekend of regular season Pac-12 basketball. We head to the Willamette Valley for our game of the week, where two of us are taking host Oregon, and Adam sticks with his Wildcats. Drew is taking a few road warriors in Colorado, Arizona State, and UCLA on Saturday, while I’ve got all home teams except for the Bruins, who will be heavy favorites on the Palouse.
    Game Connor (34-7) Drew (30-11) Adam (29-12)
    Utah @ Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
    Arizona @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Arizona
    Arizona State @ Oregon State Oregon State Arizona State Oregon State
    USC @ Washington Washington Washington Washington
    Colorado @ California California Colorado California
    UCLA @ Washington State UCLA UCLA UCLA
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Cal’s Defense the Key to a Run to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 13th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this report after California and Washington State played Wednesday night in Pullman, Washington.

Seemingly half of the Pac-12 has been considered the conference’s second-best team this season as Arizona continues to run away with the title. First it was Oregon, but the Ducks lost that title to California when the Golden Bears came into Eugene and left with a 96-83 win in mid-January. Cal held that distinction for all of two weeks before a loss to rebuilding USC began a stretch of five losses in six games. Curiously, that one win was over then-undefeated and #1 Arizona. So the Bears are a confusing bunch, led by their suddenly porous defense and inept offense. Entering last night’s game against Washington State, they had scored more than a point per possession once in their previous five games, and only held their opponents to under a point per possession once in the same span.

Behind a superb second half from Justin Cobbs, the Bears found a way to pull it out in OT. (Getty)

Behind a superb second half from Justin Cobbs, the Bears found a way to pull it out in OT. (Getty)

After Washington State junior guard DaVonte Lacy hung 39 points on them Wednesday night, including eight three-pointers, it’s safe to say Cal’s defense isn’t fixed, even if its offense showed up in a 80-76 overtime win in Pullman. In fact, the Cougars scored more points per possession than the Bears, but lost the opening tip-off and the overtime tip as well, and the Bears had the last possession in all three periods. Cal’s per-possession defensive performance was its worst in more than two months, dating back to an early December home win against Nevada, although last night’s win was just its second since beating Washington State in Berkeley a month ago.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 29th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Pac-12 play gets back underway tonight with the Arizona schools visiting the Bay Area. And that means Arizona freshman forward and prized recruit Aaron Gordon is making his return to his old high school stomping grounds, where he played at Archbishop Mitty. As he was in high school, Gordon remains a coach’s dream in college, a hard-working, versatile player that is a great teammate who is always improving. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, who was among the coaches hot in pursuit of Gordon’s commitment, joined Arizona head coach Sean Miller in praising Gordon’s ability. But, more importantly for the Wildcat’s season than one player’s return home is the chance to again prove their mettle in tough conference road games.
  2. As for California, tonight they host Arizona State in an attempt to get back on track. But the Sun Devils provide significant and diverse challenges for the Golden Bears. First, along the frontline, Richard Solomon will need to continue his strong play as he matches up mostly against the Sun Devils’ senior center Jordan Bachynski who has four inches on him. And then in the backcourt, senior point guard Justin Cobbs may have the experience edge on Arizona State’s sparkplug Jahii Carson, but Carson’s got the clear quickness advantage. And, as always when the nation’s #1 team is up next, the Golden Bears need to make sure they’re not looking ahead to Saturday against Arizona.
  3. Good news everyone! Washington State junior guard DaVonte Lacy may return as early as this weekend when they host Washington on Saturday. Lacy has had a rough 2014 so far, missing time following surgery to remove his appendix, returning for 11 minutes and then injring his ribs. And, without their best scorer and leader, the Cougars have been, well, just awful. While it remains to be seen if he’ll actually play on Saturday or possibly wait until next week, it will likely take some time for him to get back to full strength. And until he is back at full strength, the Cougs really don’t have much of a chance to compete on a regular basis. But, assuming he’s back to full strength by March, and assuming Que Johnson’s time in the spotlight has been put to good use, there’s a chance these guys are talented enough to spring an upset on day one of the Pac-12 Tournament. Maybe not a good chance, but a chance.
  4. Tomorrow night, Oregon gets a chance to build upon its win over Washington State last weekend by protecting its homecourt against the invaders from UCLA. While the Ducks shut down the Cougars defensively on Sunday, holding them to 44 points (0.73 points per possession), the Bruins offer a whole different challenge, with talented offensive players up and down their rotation. After the up-tempo Ducks allowed 80 points or more in five consecutive games prior to the Washington State matchup, they welcome in the Bruins, who have scored at least 69 points in every game this year and 80 or more in 12 out of their 20. With both teams in the top 20 in the nation in shortest offensive possession length and with KenPom.com projecting a final score in the upper-80s, this may well be one of the most enticing conference games of the season.
  5. Lastly, yuck. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this at all. It has been an emerging policy at least among RTC Pac-12 writers to ignore Bruins Nation, a UCLA “fan” site that has repeatedly shown an ignorance about basic basketball strategy and is a shining beacon in the world of applying actual events to pre-determined narratives, no matter how silly those applications turn out to be. Given that there are so many better sources for news and opinion about UCLA basketball, there is no reason to usher people in the direction of the TMZ of UCLA basketball coverage. But, in the spirit of comedy, they outdid themselves on Tuesday, suggesting that one of the reasons that freshman guard Zach LaVine (regularly projected as a lottery or border-line lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft) may be considering entering the draft following this season is because head coach Steve Alford is playing favorites and will hand the point guard position next year (assuming, safely, that Kyle Anderson is NBA-bound) to his son Bryce Alford, regardless of the competition. Now, we’re not actually going to link to this Onion-esque bit of prose (which, among other things, suggests that LaVine, third on the team in minutes this year, might still be relegated to the bench next season if Anderson leaves), but suffice it to say that this is odd, at best. Right now, without any bit of doubt whatsoever, Alford is the team’s second-best point guard. LaVine is terrific off the ball (seriously, coming off a solid screen and squaring up to get a good look at the hoop from deep, there are very few more fearsome shooters in the nation), but has shown an inability to create for himself or others with anything more than one or two dribbles, and is loose with his handle. He’s a terrific pro prospect because of his athleticism, ridiculous upside and potential to improve those glaring weaknesses. And if he winds up forgoing his final three years of eligibility, it is entirely because he is likely to get paid handsomely for such an opportunity. Either way, while he may well develop into a point guard in time, right now, he would struggle running the point – he’s an attacking wing in transition and a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. But the idea that the criminally-underrated Alford is only receiving playing time because his dad has a soft spot in his heart for him indicates a writer who has decided not to spend any time actually watching UCLA basketball.
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Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over California

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 27th, 2014

UCLA hosted California on Sunday night in a match-up of what clearly looks like the second and third-best teams in the Pac-12. UCLA ran out to a big lead, eased up, and then let the Golden Bears back into the game when freshman Jabari Bird got hot. The Bruins were able to turn the energy back on to finish off the game, but we learned several important things that will be important to remember going forward in the Pac-12 race.

Kyle Anderson Is Exceeding Already High Expectations at UCLA (Scott Chandler, UCLA Athletics)

Kyle Anderson Is Exceeding Already High Expectations at UCLA (Scott Chandler, UCLA Athletics)

  1. Kyle Anderson is very good. At some point, writing this will become tiresome and repetitive; but it isn’t yet. Slo-Mo is the Bruins’ best player and – despite all the Zach LaVine hype – its best NBA prospect. He’s got great court vision and a tremendous feel for the game – we knew that. At 6’9”, he’s big and long and causes a lot of match-up problems – yup, knew that too. But his ability to get to rebounds and forcefully collect them (his defensive rebounding percentage is 30th in the nation! For a point guard!); his tendency to lull defenders to sleep with his deliberate style and then glide by them with his long gait on the way to the hoop; his lean-back jumper that uses his long frame to easily shoot over smaller defenders; his ever-improving three-point shot (he’s shooting 52.9 percent from deep this year, for crying out loud!); and his apparent and evolving command of the leadership necessities that go along with being a point guard. Goodness gracious sakes alive! Those are all revelations. Yeah, if you catch him on a switch and he is matched up on a smaller, quicker player, he can have some defensive difficulties, but his feel for the game and those long arms allow him to create so many turnovers. He’ll of course still need to continue adding bulk to his frame, but he is already a terrific player. After the Golden Bears cut the lead to three on Sunday, it was Anderson who the Bruins went to when an answer was needed. He responded time and again, not just getting into the lane and using a variety of moves for good looks at the hoop, but also setting up his teammates in good positions. We’re three months in and still not exactly sure just how good UCLA is, but with a player the caliber of Anderson leading the way, the Bruins are going to have a puncher’s chance come March. Read the rest of this entry »
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Two Pac-12 Teams Answering Questions and Two Others Raising Them

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 8th, 2014

There were quite a few teams around the conference that, for whatever reason, we were unable to get a real peg on in non-conference play. Maybe the level of competition was low, or new guys were getting used to new roles, or injuries and suspensions changed the roster. But now that we’re into conference play, there is no longer anyplace to hide. After just a weekend of action, we’ve started to get a read on two teams that had previously proved inscrutable. Meanwhile, we’ve also seen a couple of teams that now have us more confused than ever. Below, we’ll take a look at all four of those squads with some of the explanations behind each.

Opening weekend of conference play was enlightening in these two cases.

  1. Utah – After the loss at Boise State in which the Utes looked good, you felt like you still didn’t really know this team. Soon afterward, there was their blowout win over BYU, which, to be honest, felt a little fluky, didn’t it? So we came into Pac-12 play maybe hoping that the Utes were going to be legitimate, but not really having anything to back that up. After an opening weekend home stand that finished with one in the good column and one in the bad, we’ve got to start getting used to the fact that the Utes are going to be a factor worth talking about (and worth watching) in the Pac-12. We knew about Jordan Loveridge, but it is becoming more and more apparent that Delon Wright is the “fill-in-your-hyperbole here” guy. Just last week, when national columnists were naming all-Pac-12 teams for the non-conference schedule, Wright was routinely overlooked. But this dude – for those of you who have still not made yourself acquainted with his game – is legit. He’s good enough that, when describing his game, it is easy to be torn between deciding whether to first mention his athleticism or his innate feel for the game. Throw in a full rotation that has nice bits and pieces most of the way down the bench – including in the coach’s seat – and, while we still want to see just how different the road Mr. Hyde is from the home Dr. Jekyll, it is about time to start taking these Utes seriously.

    Delon Wright And The Utes Deserve To Be Taken Seriously (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

    Delon Wright And The Utes Deserve To Be Taken Seriously (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

  2. California – Down Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow and heading across the Bay to face rival Stanford in their Pac-12 opener, the Golden Bears appeared to be walking into an ambush. But they’ve got a couple big weapons of their own that will keep this team competitive throughout the rest of the regular season. First, Mike Montgomery. You may have heard of him. He can coach a little. And against most of the coaches in this conference, he’ll provide his team with a mismatch in the coaching battle. The other is the ever-elusive rare breed in modern-day college basketball – the senior point guard, or Justin Cobbs, in this case. In his fifth year of college basketball and in his third season as a starter for Cal, he’s seen it all. So when he looks up at the under-four timeout and sees his team down in an unfriendly environment, he’s not going to be dissuaded. Late Thursday night, he took over the game by drilling step-back jumpers, getting to the line, and dropping dimes when needed. Monty’s genius will go a long way towards keeping Cal in a lot of games, but it may be up to Cobbs to put them over the top on the regular.

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Thoughts From Opening Night in the Pac-12

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

In what was a very entertaining night of basketball around the Pac-12, here are a number of semi-interesting thoughts for Thursday’s five games.

Oregon 70, Utah 68 (OT)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

  • Plenty of words have already been spent dissecting Utah’s final possessions in regulation and then in overtime, but those two possessions took up about two percent of the entire game. There is more to be gleaned from the other 98-ish percent. So let’s spend some time digging into that game. The biggest question coming into it was: “So, are the Utes really any good?” Well, Utah answered that question with a resounding: “I dunno. Maybe!?! Probably?!? Aw, who knows?” Delon Wright wasn’t as athletically dominant against more worthy competition, but still wound up with 14 points, six boards, four blocks, a couple steals and dimes. And, if anything, he was underused. Oregon got the memo about his unreliable jumper and often backed off him, went under screens, and dared him to knock down jumpers, which he did on a couple of occasions. But that’s still far preferable to letting him get to the rim, which he can do against all but the most capable defenders.
  • Elsewhere, Dallin Bachynski really answered the call in the middle (despite that unfortunate play at the end, which can hardly be blamed on him) and was probably the best big on the court throughout the game, something that wasn’t expected.
  • While the Utes played very well as a whole, Jordan Loveridge was not at his best Thursday night, settling for jumpers too often and, worse yet, settling for long jumpers; he took six of his 23 shots from three-point land and made just one of them. While Loveridge is capable inside and out, he relied far too much on his outside game and shunned the inside portion. Perhaps some of this was part of a game plan to keep Mike Moser from being an interior defensive presence, but there were too many times where Loveridge floated to the three-point  line while Wright was clearly trying to set up a post feed.

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The Best In The West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West Of The Rockies

Posted by AMurawa on December 16th, 2013

Roughly a quarter of the way through the year, we’re going to unveil something a little new here, something we’ll check back in on once a month or so. We’re going to take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast, and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and Western Athletic Conferences) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools 1 though 20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers, in part because calling Arizona #1 and then naming another school #2 just seems wrong, because the Wildcats are just so far ahead of everyone else. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on the teams in our list.

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – The Wildcats are in a class by themselves out West. Even when putting together my national top 25, I wanted to put Arizona at #1, leave spots 2-5 empty, and then have a four-way tie at #6. What they’ve accomplished thus far is unassailable, especially considering how young this team is. Expect somebody (maybe multiple somebodies) in the Pac-12 to put up a serious challenge, but at this point in the season, Sean Miller’s squad is not only the best in the West, but they’re the best by a long shot.

Contenders to the Throne – And all top 25 teams.

Oregon (#2 overall, Pac-12 #2) – The Ducks are the team closest to joining the Wildcats up top, but while they’ve got an undefeated record and some quality scalps, they’re missing the quality of wins that the Wildcats have. But, as good as Dana Altman’s squad has been, they’re not even at full strength yet – Dominic Artis and Ben Carter are due back this week.

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Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 12th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of this race, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at what’s happened so far, prognosticate a bit into the future, and reset the season as we move forward.

Overall, coming into the year, we regarded Arizona as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. A month in, the Wildcats have done nothing to dissuade us of that notion; in fact, if anything, they’re probably even a bigger favorite than they were in early November. Seeing the improvement the sophomores have made, the cohesiveness of this team defensively from the get-go, and contemplating the improvement that can still be made – especially on the offensive end – the ‘Cats remain the big boys in the Pac-12. That being said, Oregon, UCLA and Colorado have all established themselves as Top 25 caliber teams with plenty of upside. With the Wildcats needing to make road trips to visit every one of those teams, there will be plenty of chances for Arizona to slip up in conference play.

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Beyond that group at the top, California sort of sits in a tier by itself; it would be a serious surprise if the Golden Bears compete for a conference title, but at the same time, it would be a stretch to picture this team on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. However, after the Bears, there are plenty of question marks. Arizona State started off strong, but a couple of slip-ups in the Wooden Legacy damaged their early hopes. Stanford’s got plenty of talent, but this team has done little to give any but the most myopic Cardinal fan hopes of serious change. And while Utah has looked exciting at times, that is a team that is going to be up and down over the course of the year; yes, they may sneak up and bite unsuspecting visitors to Salt Lake City in the butt, but they’ll also turn in a couple stinkers of their own. Beyond that, however, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State are a good bet to make up the bottom third of the standings come March. Below, we’ll take a look at each of those top eight teams and talk about what we’ve learned over the first month and what needs to change going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 3rd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. California Golden Blogs meets in roundtable form to discuss some leftovers (get it?) from California‘s recent trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Included is some projections as to how the Golden Bears would have fared with senior forward Richard Solomon playing in the final two games, as well as the impression David Kravish made on everyone during the trip. While the tournament ended on a bit of a downer thanks to an 18-point loss against Dayton, Monday’s victory over Arkansas was huge as it not only gave the Cal an extra notch in the win column but also put it in the winner’s bracket and match-ups with a pair of solid RPI-enhancing opponents. Where the Golden Bears go from their performance in Maui before conference play is very important. Finishing 10-3 against the non-conference slate is definitely possible, but Mike Montgomery has to make sure the team avoids slip-ups against intrastate rivals UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and Fresno State.
  2. UCLA‘s Steve Alford has led the Bruins to a 7-0 start this season, and believe it or not, that is a record among first-year coaches in Westwood. And while critics will be quick to point out that the best UCLA win has probably come against Drexel or Northwestern, 7-0 is still 7-0. This article takes a look at other Bruin head coaches and how each started their careers. The Bruins will go for their eighth consecutive victory tonight against UC Santa Barbara.
  3. Arizona joined the 7-0 club on Friday with its NIT Season Tip-Off Championship victory over Duke, and the Wildcats climbed to number two in the week five AP poll as a result. The poll can be found in full here, where you’ll see the Cats also earned two first place votes. A couple of other 7-0 Pac-12 teams, Oregon and UCLA, checked in at #13 and #18, respectively. If you go down to the “Also Receiving Votes” category you’ll find 7-1 Colorado garnering enough votes to put itself at #36. Arizona State remains without a vote despite having already won seven games, including a victory at UNLV and at home against Marquette.
  4. Sticking in Tucson, USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach says Arizona is in midseason form three weeks into the season. Head coach Sean Miller didn’t back away from high expectations back in October, and for good reason, because with a true point guard in junior T.J. McConnell and a do-everything scorer in shooting guard Nick Johnson, the Wildcats are winning games and looking good while doing it. A second straight undefeated non-conference season is possible if Arizona can get past Michigan on December 14.
  5. We close with this feature on Utah guard Parker Van Dyke. Van Dyke, a freshman from Salt Lake City, was planning on a two-year church mission immediately after graduating from high school, but decided that his best opportunity for playing time for the Utes would come this season. The mission was put on hold, and the decision has paid off in spades. Van Dyke is typically one of the first guards off the bench for coach Larry Krystkowiak and has already emerged as one of the top shooters on the undefeated Utes.
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