Pac-12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Utah is off to a 2-0 start with an average margin of victory of 59 points. As you would suspect, the quality of competition hasn’t been stellar so far. And as Mike Sorensen of Deseret News notes, it’s perfectly fine for a program that is working its way back from the depths of a 2011-12 season when the Utes lost 25 out of 31 games, to schedule down a bit. But with six Division I schools in the state of Utah, the only one the Utes will face this year is BYU. Going forward, why not sub out some of these random schools on the roster (e.g., Idaho State, Texas State, Ball State, Savannah State) and replace them with local schools like Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah and Utah Valley?
  2. Colorado ran out to a workmanlike 93-70 win over Arkansas State last night, in part behind a super-efficient 13 points on just five shots from the field from junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. It is the third time in recent games where Dinwiddie has attempted fewer than five shots from the floor and it is nothing to worry about; it’s all part of the plan. You see, with a bunch of new players stepping into big roles on the wing, Dinwiddie’s just playing the part of the traditional point guard by setting up his teammates. But, he’s also shown that in games when his team needs him to create his own offense, he’s entirely capable of doing that too.
  3. Last night, Arizona opened its NIT Season Tip-Off participation with a 100-50 win over a ridiculously outclassed Fairleigh Dickinson team, but as Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star points out, the Wildcats can’t afford to lose focus tonight when they play Rhode Island in the second round of the tournament. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, and a quick look at the ‘Cats history in this tournament would provide a good warning sign. Five years ago when Arizona last played in this tournament, a team led by Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger was upset in the second round by a UAB team when Jamelle Horne intentionally fouled an opponent in the waning seconds of a tied game, thinking his team was behind and needed to send the Blazers to the free throw line.
  4. UCLA cruised past Sacramento State on Monday night in a 36-point victory featuring plenty of highlights, but the best news  Bruins fans got is the news that Travis Wear is expected back in the lineup on Friday night when it hosts Morehead State. UCLA was limited to just a seven-man rotation on Monday night, with Wear still recovering from appendix surgery, freshman Noah Allen out with a facial fracture suffered last week against Oakland, and Wanaah Bail yet to play following knee surgery. Bail could return as early as next week.
  5. Joseph Young has been off to a hot start for Oregon, averaging 30 points a game out of the chute and seemingly doing everything well. But with his dad, Michael Young, keeping an eye on everything, there are still plenty of ways for the younger Young to improve. Which is why following his lone missed free throw on the season so far, his dad made him shoot 100 free throws for additional practice. And I’m guessing his dad’s probably got something to do with his mandate to make 1,000 shots a day regularly. But, clearly this attention to detail is working; it may be early still, but Young is sixth in the nation in true shooting percentage – a stat that combines field goal, three-point and free throw shooting – checking in at an astonishing 82.6 percent.
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Pac-12 Team Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There is a lot of pure talent on this UCLA roster. Seven players on this roster were considered four-star recruits or better coming out of high school. Two of them – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – are expected to have NBA futures, possibly as soon as the next season. And the departures of Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Howland are expected to significantly improve team chemistry around the program. This Bruin roster may be slightly less talented than last season, but expect the gestalt to be an improvement, and expect the increase in tempo that UCLA fans saw in Howland’s final season to continue and even accelerate. The Bruins will be at their best in transition under new head coach Steve Alford, and they’ve got plenty of guards and wings who can get up and down the floor and score.

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Weaknesses. Until Anderson proves himself, there are going to be questions about how he’ll fill in for departed senior Larry Drew II at point guard. Anderson is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be against this level of competition creating for others. Even more questionable is his ability to guard opposing backcourt players; while the plan will often be for Anderson to switch to guarding threes and maybe even fours on defense, there could be plenty of opportunities for those switches to get crossed up in transition. Also, in the frontcourt, the Bruins have a lack of depth. With senior Travis Wear sidelined for up to a month following appendix surgery and with freshman Wanaah Bail recovering from offseason knee surgery, UCLA is presently limited to just two scholarship players who are bigs: solid senior David Wear and the unproven sophomore Tony Parker.

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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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Who’s Got Next? Indiana Scores With Noah Vonleh; Nigel Hayes Becomes A Badger…

Posted by CLykins on November 13th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Indiana Adds Noah Vonleh To Loaded Class

As Saturday night concluded, the Indiana Hoosiers landed a significant piece to its 2013 recruiting class that quickly vaulted them up the class rankings to join the likes of Kentucky and Memphis. Five-star forward Noah Vonleh, who reclassified back into his original class of 2013 in September, ended his college recruitment quicker than expected by giving the Hoosiers a verbal pledge after his official visit during Indiana’s season opener. Vonleh, the No. 8 ranked prospect in the class of 2013, was also considering Connecticut, Georgetown, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse.

While visiting, 2013 No. 8 prospect Noah Vonleh chose the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday night

“From Day One, Indiana has been recruiting me the hardest,” Vonleh told Adam Finkelstein of ESPN.com. “They were just letting me know how they could develop me into the player I want to be at the next level. Their academics are good, they’re the No. 1 team in the country and they’ve got another great class coming in next year.” With the addition of Vonleh, head coach Tom Crean has landed his highest-ranked prospect since taking the Indiana job in 2008. At 6’9″ and 220 lbs., the Massachusetts native is best described as a freak athlete. He uses his great length especially well rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor, as he is arguably one of the best rebounders in the class, and altering shots with his shot-blocking. For a combo forward, he also has excellent ball-handling ability with an ever-improving jump shot. As his body continues to mature, with added strength to his 6’9″ frame he will be more efficient from the low post with his endless potential.

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Pac-12 M5:11.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

  1. Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
  2. We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
  3. We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
  4. Back on the recruiting trail, UCLA landed three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — Scout.com recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
  5. Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
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