Oregon Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 8th, 2012

Last year eight players earned significant playing time for the Ducks. Of those eight, four are now gone — three have used up their eligibility and will be playing for a paycheck in one place or another next year. Also gone is a man who only played in two games for the Ducks, but was a major part of the rotation before transferring to Missouri. With three recruits coming in expected to play immediately, there will be no problem finding bodies to replace the departed, but the experience and savvy they possessed is not something that can be expected of most freshmen. In other words, these guys will be missed.

Jospeh’s (#34) Energy Is Something That Won’t Be Replaced In 2012-13 (credit: AP)

Devoe Joseph – Joseph played just one season in Eugene after transferring over from Minnesota, but he had a big impact in his single year. Despite not being eligible for the team’s first six contests, Joseph came in and rolled off seven straight games in which he scored in double figures. It took him just two games to go from a role player coming off the bench to a full-time starter. Behind Garrett Sim, Joseph was second on the team in three-point percentage; a great distributor as well, he averaged 3.3 APG and kept opponents on their toes whenever he had the ball. Perhaps the quality that will be missed most, however, is the energy that Joseph brought night in and night out. On defense, Joseph led the team in steals and was one of just two players to average more than a theft per game. When he wasn’t actually stealing the ball from an opponent, his annoying, in-your-face defensive style at least got everyone out of their seats. Perhaps showing Duck fans what they’ll be missing in the coming years, Joseph closed out the year by averaging 19.3 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in Oregon’s Pac-12 Tournament and NIT contests. His contributions led Oregon to the quarterfinals of the NIT, and subsequently earned him a spot on the Toronto Raptors summer league team. Joseph impressed with the Raptors, scoring in double figures three times in seven games. He signed with the Ukrainian club Khimik-OPZ Yuzny about a week after the conclusion of summer league.

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Oregon: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 19th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Oregon.

What Went Wrong

The Ducks couldn’t win a big game. Oregon went 1-7 against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, and if they could have won just two or three more of those games they could have been playing in the NCAAs, instead of the NIT, in March.

Moves like Dana (credit: Nati Harnik)

What Went Right

Despite Oregon’s struggles to win games against top opponents, they won most of the rest. And because of that, they found themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into Championship Week. A main reason for Oregon’s second place finish in the Pac-12 was the play of Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. Expected to be just a role player before the season began, Joseph proved that he belonged from his opening minutes against Fresno State on December 10. The senior guard out of Ontario, Canada, finished the season with a team high 16.6 PPG, good enough to garner a spot on the All-Pac-12 first team. As a surprise, Joseph and fellow Toronto senior Olu Ashaolu were honored on Senior Day with the playing of O Canada before the game began.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2012

  1. Despite all the struggles that the Pac-12 went through this season, the conference came into Tuesday night with the most teams of any conference in the nation still playing basketball. Unfortunately, none of those teams were in the NCAA Tournament, with two in the NIT and one in the CBI. And, the results last night trimmed the number of Pac-12 teams to just two. Stanford is among those two, as it took care of business in the matinee at Madison Square Garden, knocking off Massachusetts 74-64 behind 13 second-half points from sophomore wing Anthony Brown, part of his game-high 18. However, in the nightcap, Washington fell in overtime to Minnesota, nixing the chances of an all-Pac-12 final. Terrence Ross led the Huskies with 21 points, but now UW fans have to hold their collective breath as they wait to see if he and/or freshman Tony Wroten will enter their names into the NBA Draft, as expected. The Gophers move on to face the Cardinal for the NIT title on Thursday night.
  2. While Pac-12 teams are shut out of this weekend’s Final Four in New Orleans, there is some representation in the weekend’s festivities, as Oregon’s Devoe Joseph and California’s Jorge Gutierrez will both play in the Reese’s Division I College All-Star game on Friday. Meanwhile, Duck fans will also be able to root for Olu Ashaolu in the State Farm Slam Dunk content, on Thursday night.
  3. Despite a difficult season but as we expected all along, there does not appear to be any forthcoming changes in the head coaching positions at any of the Pac-12 schools. Still, every time a new position opens up, certain Pac-12 coaches are mentioned in connection with those jobs. Dana Altman’s name was floated in relation to the Nebraska job, Johnny Dawkins has been suggested as a possibility at Illinois, as has Lorenzo Romar, and now Tad Boyle is rumored to be a possibility at Kansas State. Luckily, most fan bases around the conference can see right through these rumors. The Husky Haul takes umbrage at the idea that Romar’s name gets mentioned seemingly every time any other big position comes open. And likewise, The Ralphie Report laughs off the notion that Boyle is going to walk out on a young and talented Colorado team with a bright future. While either of those guys may leave their respective institutions at some point in the future, Illinois and Kansas State are not going to be the places to steal them away.
  4. There is a possibility, however, that there could be some shakeup on the Colorado bench. In the wake of Tim Miles’ move to Nebraska, Colorado State is in search of its next head coach. Assistants Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn could each be considered by CSU for its open position, and while Boyle is in no hurry to see either one of them go, he would “love for them to get an opportunity.” There has been a lot of talk about Weber State head coach Randy Rahe landing at CSU, but until the coaching carousel stops spinning, either of Boyle’s main men could be candidates elsewhere.
  5. Lastly, we’ll wrap up a Colorado-heavy Morning Five by pointing you to The Ralphie Report’s third part of its look ahead to next year’s Buffalo team. This part focuses on the six newcomers to the program, making up a Top 25 recruiting class for Boyle. The argument begins as to who is the most anticipated of these newcomers; is it Josh Scott, the 2012 player of the year in Colorado, or maybe Xavier Johnson, another southern California kid stolen by Boyle out from under the noses of UCLA and USC? Maybe it is super bouncy forward Wesley Gordon who could be an excellent backup to Andre Roberson, or versatile wing Chris Jenkins? Xavier Talton is the team’s fifth recruit, an in-state combo-guard who may be a work in progress, while Boyle just added guard Eli Stalzer, a teammate of Johnson’s with the reputation as a pure point guard. With plenty of talent returning for the Buffaloes, getting contributions from a few of these guys could turn CU into a national player next season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 5th, 2012

  1. The story was pretty simple for Washington when they tipped off against UCLA on Saturday morning: Win, and the Huskies were the conference champion; lose, and they would need some help. And for much of the game it looked like the Huskies were in a mood to take control of their own future, leading for much of the middle 20 minutes of the game. However, when Lazeric Jones hit a three-pointer with just under nine minutes remaining, it gave the Bruins their first lead since the 14-minute mark of the first half and set up a back-and-forth finish to the game. In those last nine minutes, the Huskies turned the ball over five times, made just 3-of-10 field goal attempts and scored just seven points on 14 possessions. But still, with just 15 seconds left, Washington found itself down two as senior forward Darnell Gant received the ball in three-point land at the top of the key. Terrence Ross was open on the wing, but Gant launched the shot and it came up just short, giving UCLA the win and the #5 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament while the Huskies would have to wait until Sunday to find out their fate. As for the Bruins, it was the second straight encouraging win in the aftermath of the controversial Sports Illustrated story last week, sending the team to the conference tournament feeling as good as they have all year.
  2. Washington got the answer it was looking for on Sunday, when California had its conference title hopes dashed by their Bay Area rival, Stanford. It was a tight game down the stretch, but much like the Huskies on Saturday, the Golden Bears just didn’t make the plays necessary to win a championship. For instance, Cardinal sophomore guard Aaron Bright was sent to the free throw line three straight times at the end of the game, and on each of those occasions, he missed the second of his two free throws. However, the first two misses wound up right back in his hands as the Bears were unable to secure an offensive rebound. Earlier, Cal guard Allen Crabbe had passed up an open baseline jumper to drive to the hoop, only to fumble the ball out of bounds. And, continuing a theme for Cal’s loss at Colorado last week, Justin Cobbs and Jorge Gutierrez struggled shooting the ball, hitting a combined six of their 22 field goal attempts. The loss sends the Bears to the Pac-12 Tournament with consecutive defeats for the first time all season. While Stanford’s 10-8 conference record wound up being disappointing (especially the seven losses in its final 12 games), the Cardinal did cinch a 20-win season for the first time in three seasons.
  3. To finish off the trifecta of top teams losing in conference this week, Arizona fell to Arizona State on Sunday in one of the more surprising results of the conference season. Not only was ASU’s 87 points its highest total on the year, it was only the tenth time all season that the Sun Devils had scored more than one point per possession in a game; in fact they averaged 1.27 points per possession, an excellent number. What changed for the Devils? A lot of things, but first and foremost, let’s look at the point guard play: Chris Colvin, who has averaged a turnover more than once every three possessions used, played 34 minutes and had just two turnovers compared with nine assists. Secondly, junior wing Trent Lockett is now, perhaps for the first time, clearly back near full strength after his midseason ankle injury; he had 21 points, seven boards and chipped in five assists of his own compared with just three turnovers. As a whole, ASU only turned it over 10 times on the day, their lowest total of the season, and their turnover percentage (the percentage of possessions on which the team commits a turnover) of 14.7% is almost half of their season average. The Sun Devils go into the conference tournament on a two-game winning streak (their first such streak of the year) and playing arguably their best ball of the season. Meanwhile, for the Wildcats, this was a devastating loss to their NCAA Tournament hopes. Already sitting firmly on the bubble (and possibly on the wrong side of it), Sean Miller’s club has to figure the only way for the team to make its 27th tournament in 28 years is to win the Pac-12 automatic bid next weekend.
  4. The other major story line going into the final weekend was the race for the four opening round byes in the conference tournament. Oregon took care of its business this weekend by throttling Utah on Saturday. The Ducks scored 34 of the game’s first 36 points, and sent seniors Devoe Joseph, Garrett Sim, Olu Ashaolu, Tyrone Nared and Jeremy Jacob out in style, securing the #3 seed in next week’s conference tournament. Colorado, however, floundered at Oregon State, losing by 14 and not only played itself out of contention for one of those byes, but dropped all the way to the #6 seed. The Buffaloes will host Utah on Wednesday as they are still looking for their 20th win on the year.
  5. Lastly, USC’s disaster of a season is now apparently just one game away from being mercifully over. The Trojans fought hard in their final regular season game, holding Washington State scoreless for the final nine minutes and nine seconds on Saturday and rallied back from a 17-point deficit to as close as three late, but once again came up short, wrapping up the conference schedule with a 1-17 record and a school-record 25 losses on the year.
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 29th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 16th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 23-7 (13-4): The Golden Bears may have suffered a disappointing 13-point loss to Colorado on Sunday, but I still have Cal on top for a couple of reasons. First, while Cal’s loss was bad, Washington fell by 18 at Colorado earlier this season. Secondly, even though the Huskies are ahead of the Golden Bears by half a game in the Pac-12 standings, California still has three more wins than the Dawgs. Group in the fact that the Golden Bears don’t have any glaring bad losses on their slate, I still think they are the better team right now. Up Next: 3/4 @ Stanford

2. Washington, 20-8 (13-3): Washington all but guaranteed itself an NCAA bid with their 59-55 win in Pullman last Saturday. The Huskies should make it official by splitting their trip to Los Angeles, but even if they found a way to lose to USC, I think they would still be good. The big question is whether or not the Huskies will avoid one of the “First Four” games. Right now I would say they are safe, but they need a good couple of weeks in LA to be assured of that as well. Up Next: 3/1 @ USC

3. Oregon, 20-8 (11-5): The Ducks sure looked like an NCAA Tournament team on Sunday, but they still remain just outside the field of 68 in most projections. Whether it was Garrett Sim, Devoe Joseph, or Olu Ashaolu, the Ducks were making everything they threw up, which they will need to do if they want to advance in whatever postseason tournament they play in. The Ducks led by ten points against feisty rival Oregon State with just 5:50 remaining, but the Beavers stormed back to within a point with one second left on a Jared Cunningham slam dunk that followed Challe Barton’s three that went off the right rim to try and tie the game. The next Oregon inbound pass wasn’t fully covered however, and Oregon ran down the clock and ran out of Gill Coliseum with a 74-73 win. With the win, the Ducks have posted back-to-back 20-win seasons. Up Next: 3/1 vs. Colorado

Senior guard Garrett Sim, who grew up a Beaver fan, was booed every time he touched the ball after elbowing Jared Cunningham early in Sunday's Civil War. Sim finished with 25 points. (credit: Brent Wojahn)

4. Arizona, 21-9 (12-5): It wasn’t easy at times for the Cats, but at the end of the weekend they found themselves with a pair of wins over the LA schools in Tucson. On Thursday it was a solid 70-54 win over the visiting Trojans, solid because they struggled at times with the tough SC defense back in January at the Galen Center. Two days later it was a nail biter all the way through, with Arizona finally prevailing for a 65-63 win. Up Next: 3/4 @ Arizona State Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 13

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 8th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 13th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 18-6 (8-3): Despite Washington taking the lead in the real Pac-12 standings, I still have the Golden Bears on top here for a couple of reasons. For one, the Golden Bears defeated the Huskies in Seattle earlier in the season, which is Washington’s only home conference loss to date. Secondly, despite having a better conference record, the Huskiesl have two fewer wins and an extra loss compared to Cal. Part of the reason for that are Washington’s bad nonconference losses to Nevada and South Dakota State. Up Next: 2/9 @ USC

2. Washington, 16-7 (9-2): The Huskies move up two spots after sweeping the LA schools at home. On Thursday night they came back from a ten-point deficit with just 6:02 remaining to defeat UCLA, 71-69. Things were a little easier (to say the least) on Saturday night when the Huskies were all over USC for a 69-41 win. Up Next: 2/9 @ Oregon

Tony Wroten, Jr. leads the Huskies with 16.7 PPG. (credit: Stephen Brashear)

3. Colorado, 16-7 (8-3): The Buffaloes couldn’t have asked for a better week. On Thursday they shot a lightning-hot 51% from the field to run Oregon State out of the Coors Event Center for a 82-60 victory. Saturday night things were much more dicey, with the Buffs escaping for a controversial one-point win over Oregon. The Buffs needed the sweep to stay in contention for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, and a split this weekend in Arizona is also crucial. Up Next: 2/9 @ Arizona

4. Oregon, 16-7 (7-4): The Ducks knew coming into the week that a sweep in the Rocky Mountains was unlikely, but they didn’t know just how close they would come. Trailing 71-69 with seven seconds left, Oregon forward Olu Ashaolu put in the game-tying layup and was fouled in the process. Ashaolu missed the free throw and Buffalo guard Nate Tomlinson took the ball all the way up the court. His layup to beat the buzzer appeared to not only be blocked cleanly by E.J. Singler, but came after the buzzer sounded as well. However, after reviewing the play, officials determined that the foul came before the clock reached triple-zeroes, giving Tomlinson a pair of free throws. He put home the first, missed the second intentionally, and Oregon was sent back to Eugene with a split on the trip. Up Next: 2/9 vs. Washington Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2012

Oregon at Colorado, February 4, 7 PM PST, ROOT-NW/ROOT-RM

After both the Ducks and the Buffaloes took care of business on Thursday night, they sit tied with California a game back of Washington in the Pac-12. And provided the Ducks can get to Boulder from Salt Lake City (their original flight on Friday morning was cancelled due to weather), we should be in for a good fight for Saturday evening. While Colorado has yet to lose a Pac-12 game in their Coors Event Center (aka, the Foam Dome), the Ducks have been the best road team in the conference thus far, winning four of their five tests away from Eugene. However, the combination of the travel problems that Oregon is experiencing and the 5300-foot elevation in Boulder combine to give Dana Altman and his crew a unique challenge. CU head coach Tad Boyle hasn’t shied away from giving some credit to the elevation for his team’s success at home, but whether it is physical or psychological, there is no doubt that a significant advantage exists for at home. The Buffaloes have won their six conference games at home by an average of 28 points, compared with a 1-3 record away from home and the three losses coming by an average of almost 15 points. At home, the Buffs have scored 1.12 points per possession and held conference opponents to a stingy 0.85 points per possession; those numbers get flipped on the road to just 0.93 points per offensive possession while allowing a more reasonable 1.01 points per defensive possession.

Coors Event Center, Colorado

The Combination Of Some Rough Travel And The Coors Event Center Could Spell Road Trouble For Oregon

Altman’s crew, however, has been excellent on the road so far this season, handing losses to both Arizona schools, as well as Washington State and Utah. Altman credits his team’s maturity for their play away from home (the team is the 15th most experienced team in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy) and Boyle sees their mental toughness as their biggest road asset as well. Another significant strength for the Ducks is their ability to not only get to the free throw line on a regular basis offensively, but also to prevent their opponents from getting to the line. The Ducks are in the top 50 nationally in FTA-to-FGA ratio, setting up an interesting conflict, as the Buffaloes rank 20th nationally in their offensive FTA-to-FGA ratio; in short, the Buffs want to attack the opposition and get to the line on a regular basis, while the Ducks want to play solid defense without fouling. Whichever team is most successful in getting to the line may earn an advantage in an otherwise remarkably even matchup.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012

  1. Arizona turned the ball over 28 times last weekend in its split with the Oregon schools, and clearly head coach Sean Miller was none too pleased with that effort. During a Tuesday news conference at the McKale Center, Miller repeatedly made reference to his team’s turnover problems, noting that even his 10-year-old son understands the concept of the double-dribble and that his team needs to catch the ball with two hands. He added that they should remember that they will be wearing blue jerseys this upcoming weekend when they travel to the Rockies, so they should try to throw the ball to blue jerseys. Things should improve drastically this weekend for the Wildcats, as Utah and Colorado are both among the worst teams in the country in forcing turnovers.
  2. Oregon was one of the teams forcing those Wildcat turnovers last weekend, and senior forward Olu Ashaolu was responsible for a couple of them. Ashaolu transferred from Louisiana Tech this season after finishing his bachelor’s degree there last year, and he’s an important cog in a Duck team that was drastically undersized last season. Ashaolu eventually decided on Oregon in part because of his friendship with fellow Torontonian and Oregon transfer, Devoe Joseph, who Ashaolu played AAU ball with in high school. And Joseph sees the 6’7” forward as vital to their team’s success, because Ashaolu is capable of being a tough rebounder, a scorer inside and a strong interior defender.
  3. Washington State returns to Beasley Coliseum on Thursday night for the first time since December 18, after spending their opening weekend of conference play hosting the Oregon schools in nearby Spokane. The Cougars played away from Pullman in an effort to draw bigger crowds when the students were away, and they did draw nearly 18,000 fans for those two games, but Ken Bone and company are glad to be back home this week. Now, if they can just get to work on the glass, they’ll be in business.
  4. Some housekeeping from around the conference, beginning with another note from that Bone news conference: Mychal Ladd is doubtful for this weekend with a thumb injury that kept him out of the Washington game last weekend. Ladd has missed six games this season due to that injury, which has flared up again. Washington’s C.J. Wilcox is doubtful for his team’s games against the Bay Area schools this weekend, a big loss for Lorenzo Romar in games with first place on line. And down at UCLA, junior De’End Parker, a junior college transfer who has played in just two games this year with the Bruins in part due to a knee injury, will be looking to transfer back closer to his home in the Bay Area to be near his ailing mother.
  5. Lastly, the last three seasons have been underwhelming for that UCLA program, what with a 14-18 performance in 2009-10 improved upon with last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance before struggling out of the gates this year. But head coach Ben Howland has a cadre of supporters in his former players who are now playing in the NBA. Eleven Bruins began this season on NBA rosters, and players and scouts alike credit Howland’s work in getting his guys ready for the next level. And, while players like Kevin Love may not have always loved playing under Howland, they understand that he helped them improve their games.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: Oh-My-God, I-Better-Start-My-Christmas-Shopping Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 23rd, 2011

  1. There’s not a whole lot you can tell from a 23-point win over one of the worst teams in the Big West, but Washington did address some of the things that needed addressing in their win over CS Northridge on Thursday night. First, their defense was much improved, holding the Matadors to a 26% eFG. Secondly, their chemistry appeared to be better, as their scoring was balanced (10 players scored, and four players scored in double figures) and freshman sensation Tony Wroten notched five assists while Abdul Gaddy dropped eight dimes. However, the Huskies still turned the ball over 20 times (Wroten responsible for six), and for the third time since Wroten entered the starting lineup, failed to get Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox each double-digit field goal attempts in the same game (Ross had 14 attempts, making five, while Wilcox has seemingly reverted to just a shooter – attempting all six of his shots from behind the arc). It’s a win, and it puts the Huskies back above .500 and sends them into their holiday break with a good feeling, but when conference play kicks off next week, they’ve still got plenty of work to do.
  2. The team with the best record in the conference proved that they’ve still got a long way to go as well, as Stanford got outworked and maybe outlucked a bit by two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Last week we talked about how this Cardinal team still needed to learn how to be a winner, and that got reinforced on Thursday night as the Bulldogs, led by a senior point guard in Ronald Nored (who has seen it all in his time in Indianapolis) took advantage of every opportunity and made the smart plays necessary to squeak out a win on the road. Sure, there was the shot-clock-beating desperation three-pointer by Nored that went in, or the putback by Andrew Smith of another late-possession brick that were certain indications of good fortune shining on Butler, but the fact is that the Bulldogs took advantage of those kinds of opportunities while the Cardinal did not. Yet again, we’ve got another Pac-12 team who just wrapped up non-conference play as a complete mystery. They may well be a legitimate contender for the conference title; or they may be just another pretender.
  3. Now there’s the USC we know and, um, love? Three days after scoring 83 points against TCU, the Trojans broke out for a whopping 13 first-half points, although certainly against much stiffer competition with Kansas visiting the Galen Center. Aside from their typical 40.8% eFG, the Trojans turned the ball over 18 times, got killed on the glass, and just generally avoided any semblance of a coherent offensive game plan. The Trojan guards reverted back to their pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-30-seconds and throw-up-a-wild-shot default, as Maurice Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field (with 10 turnovers mixed in there), while DeWayne Dedmon followed up his solid game Monday with an invisibility trick any magician would be proud of (two field goal attempts, two rebounds and four fouls in 20 minutes). Aaron Fuller again proved to be the only effective offensive threat, hitting 70% of his field goals while going for 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. SC heads into conference play four games under .500, with fans beginning to contemplate another head coaching change.
  4. Oregon finished its stretch of three games in three nights against mediocre competition (well, mediocre, only if North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rise to the level of mediocrity) with its third consecutive win. Considering the best of those three teams was ranked 219th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, three wins by an average of 10 points is not exactly an impressive run. However, the Ducks are beginning to figure out where their offense is coming from. In all three games – part of a round-robin tournament called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase that needs not only a better name but a better field – Devoe Joseph and E.J. Singler scored in double figures for the Ducks, while Garret Sim averaged more than 10 per game himself. If head coach Dana Altman can get guys like Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Jeremy Jacob to buy into doing the dirty work for them, and if freshman three-point specialist Brett Kingma can find his stroke, this team is still capable of an upper-division finish.
  5. Lastly, Utah’s two-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night when it dropped a game to in-state rival Weber State by 29, the largest margin of defeat for the Utes in that rivalry. And with the Utes changing their “scheduling philosophy” now that they’re in the Pac-12, this may be the last time they play at Weber State. Utah has yet to schedule any future games either at Weber State or at Utah State, possibly ending some great home-and-home matchups in the Beehive State. Until this point, it’s been easy to feel nothing but sympathy for the struggles of Utah’s basketball program, but without a doubt, their apparent willingness to kill off what have been great rivalries does an effective job of mitigating some of that goodwill.
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Oregon Opens Season With Road Test At Vanderbilt

Posted by AMurawa on November 11th, 2011

Welcome to hoops season, Pac-12 fans. Yeah, we’ve had seven games this week so far (including a couple featuring Arizona), but let’s face it: tonight is the real opening night. We’ve got 131 games on the docket involving Division I teams, and we’ve got seven Pac-12 teams in action (Oregon State and Washington hold their openers on Saturday evening, while Washington State and Utah will wait until Monday to get going). And while fans of each team will be interested to see exactly how their teams look in their first official competition, the one Pac-12 game tonight that should have fans around the country interested is Oregon’s trip to Nashville to face the #7 in the latest RTC poll, Vanderbilt. And while the basketball matchup with the Commodores may only serve as prelude to the main event for most Duck fans this weekend, for us hoops junkies, this is every bit as worthwhile.

While Oregon head coach Dana Altman was hoping to put together a solid schedule this season, opening the year on the road in one of the tougher places in the country to play, Memorial Gymnasium, was not necessarily the goal. But a road game with Auburn fell through in August and Oregon had to scrape around to find a replacement, eventually landing on Vandy (the ‘Dores will return the favor with a trip to Eugene in future years).

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt

John Jenkins With A Clean Look At The Hoop Is Not A Sight Oregon Fans Want To See Tonight

For Oregon fans, it is their first look at a remade roster, featuring three newly eligible Division I transfers, four incoming freshmen and one junior college transfer to pair with the six returnees from last year’s CBI championship team. While one of those transfers, point guard Devoe Joseph, won’t be eligible until the middle of December, 6’7” senior forward Olu Ashaolu and 6’11” junior center Tony Woods should play big minutes right away and give Altman an element of size up front that was missing last year. And, given that Vanderbilt’s starting center Festus Ezeli is out for this game with a knee injury (he would have missed the game even without the injury due to an NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits), that could be a strength for the Ducks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your TiVo: 11.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 11th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We had a few games earlier in the week to whet our appetite but the main course of college basketball is served tonight. One hundred thirty-one games tip off this evening in what is really the true opening night of the season. Of course, the night is highlighted by the Carrier Classic in San Diego. Let’s get to it.

#1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State (at San Diego, CA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Izzo and Williams Are All Smiles Heading Into the Inaugural Carrier Classic

  • The preseason #1 Tar Heels feature arguably the best front court in the nation with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and freshman James McAdoo. The length of the UNC front line, especially Henson, will make it incredibly difficult for Michigan State to score the basketball in the paint but the Tar Heels should also use their height as an advantage offensively. Michigan State will likely try to make this a half court game in order to limit Carolina’s transition attack. North Carolina did not shoot the ball particularly well last season so maximizing their chances inside could be advantageous if the Spartans successfully turn this into a slower-paced contest. Everyone knows Roy Williams likes to run (we’ll certainly see that) but UNC has the potential to thrive in the half court game with a good floor general in Kendall Marshall and an uber-talented front line that can score, rebound and block shots. They’re a tough matchup for anyone but especially a Michigan State team with an inexperienced and thin big man rotation.
  • For Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Draymond Green may have to do it all. He’s a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire but we expect Green to have a difficult time getting in the paint against the tall and patient Carolina defense. Green was only a 42.6% shooter from the floor last season, down significantly from his freshman and sophomore campaigns in East Lansing. As a senior, Green has to be the coach on the floor while simultaneously taking control of the game in order for State to have a chance. Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood bolsters Izzo’s back court and he’ll have to be counted on right away to provide a spark from three-point land. Michigan State is not going to beat North Carolina inside or in transition so you have to figure it’ll be up to Green, Wood and Keith Appling to knock down shots from long range.
  • The other aspect to this game, obviously, is the USS Carl Vinson itself. Neither team was a good jump shooting unit last year so the depth perception and sightlines of this unique venue could play a huge role. Even the elements, such as the slightest gust of wind, could be enough to alter a shot. North Carolina will run and look for easy baskets behind Marshall’s exquisite court vision and playmaking ability, a transition attack that may be fueled by Michigan State turnovers. The Spartans turned the ball over at an alarming rate last season, especially in the early months. If that continues, they don’t have a chance tonight. So many things have to go right for Michigan State to pull the upset but there are a lot of intangibles in play from the venue to the weather to the pressure of playing in such a setting and more. North Carolina should win, but regardless, this looks like a terrific way to open up the season.

Belmont @ #6 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

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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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