Assessing an Awkward Coaching Situation in Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on April 2nd, 2014

Craig Robinson said these words following Oregon State‘s season ending loss against Radford, a game played in front of fewer than 1,500 fans in Corvallis.

That game ended his sixth season in Corvallis, with no single campaign resulting in a postseason finish higher than the CBI, and comprising the lowest attendance totals in Gill Coliseum history. Needless to say, Beaver fans aren’t happy and would like to see a change. Still, with that all laid out on the table, I thought Robinson’s joke was hilarious. Timely, self-deprecating, and unexpected — a perfect combination for a laugh in my book. Unfortunately, his boss, athletic director Bob DeCarolis, did not find it as humorous, which is understandable since he has been in Robinson’s corner since day one. “A bad joke at a bad time,” he said the next day. A little over a week later, DeCarolis penned a letter to his biggest boosters, telling them that he had chosen to retain Robinson as head coach for another season.

The relationship between Robinson, the athletic department and Oregon State fans has grown incredibly awkward. The coach needs fans to buy tickets in order to attract recruits. The fans have stopped coming until they start to see a winning product. And there won’t be a winning product until the recruits head to Corvallis. It’s a vicious cycle, one that Robinson has been tasked with breaking. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his mouth is getting him in trouble. And I’m not talking about his joke to reporters last month. It’s the other quotes like, “Next year’s team could be ranked in the Top 25.” Not likely when he loses Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt. Or, “If Eric Moreland returns, we will be one of the top teams in the conference.” He’s already building in excuses for next season six months before practice even starts. No one wants to hear that. And then there is his agent, Rick Giles, saying that the 2013-14 Beavers were “two wins away from the NCAA Tournament.” Um, try two wins away from the NIT — maybe. The empty promises, excuses, and over-inflated expectations aren’t cute anymore. It’s annoying and a waste of time.

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Pac-12 Player of the Year and All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2014

Before we announce our Player of the Year and our all-Pac-12 Teams, a quick note on our methodology here — we had each of our three voters – Andrew Murawa, Connor Pelton, and Adam Butler – rank their top 15 players in the conference and awarded points to each player based on those votes (1st place vote =15 points, 2nd place =14, etc.). Normally, when putting together an all-conference team, we’d make an effort to balance our team by position, with either three guards and two frontcourt players on each team, or vice versa. But in this season’s guard-heavy conference we didn’t get a lot of frontcourt votes, which is why you’ll see a five-guard first team when you scroll down. As for our Player of the Year voting, it was simple enough. The player with the most points in our all-conference balloting was our Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Player of the Year

Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona – As expected, it came down to a close two-man race for Player of the Year, but Johnson squeaked out the win by one point over UCLA sophomore Kyle Anderson. Johnson is not only the leading scorer on the Wildcats, he is also their key defensive catalyst. As Adam Butler wrote justifying his vote for Johnson over Anderson: “Nick Johnson was the most critical player on the best team in the conference. As he went, the Wildcats went and more often than not (see 28-3), Nick Johnson played well. Nay, great.” To look at it the other way, compare Johnson’s performance in the three Arizona losses to their 28 wins. In those three losses, Johnson averaged fewer than 10 points per game on 23.9% eFG; in the wins, he posted a 50.8% eFG on his way to 16.8 points per win.

Nick Johnson's Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference's Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

Nick Johnson’s Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference’s Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

All-Conference

First Team

  • Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona (16.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA (14.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 48% 3FG) – The versatile Anderson has been one of the nation’s most improved players, registering as not only a terrific play-maker but an elite rebounding  guard.
  • Delon Wright, Junior, Utah (16.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.6 SPG, 1.3 SPG, 59.7% eFG) – The junior college transfer came out of nowhere to become arguably the most versatile player in the conference – if not the most versatile in the nation. These three players were almost unanimously the top three players in the conference this season.
  • Justin Cobbs, Senior, California (15.6 PPG, 5.8 APG) – Cobbs ranked no higher than fifth but no lower than eighth on any of the three ballots, a consistency which earned him a first-team all-conference spot.
  • Roberto Nelson, Senior, Oregon State (20.6 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.6 RPG) – Nelson was in the top five on two of three ballots, but was left completely off of a third (ahem, Butler). He still had enough votes to sneak on to the first team.

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Pac-12 Senior Days: Oregon State Group of Six

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 8th, 2014

On a day when Oregon State looks to secure a bid to the NIT, six Beavers will play their final game at Gill Coliseum. We break them down below.

Senior Roberto Nelson Leads The League In Points Despite Being Tightly Defended All Season (credit: Michael Shaw)

Senior Roberto Nelson Leads The League In Points Despite Being Tightly Defended All Season (credit: Michael Shaw)

Roberto Nelson leads the conference in scoring in his final season in Corvallis, and he has been the difference-maker Oregon State needed to produce one of its best seasons in a decade. Coming out of Santa Barbara, he was the top signee of head coach Craig Robinson’s first recruiting class, one that also included guys like Jared Cunningham, Angus Brandt and Joe Burton. The story of his recruitment is an interesting one in itself, and was actually told in the book “Play Their Hearts Out” by George Dohrmann. The shooting guard’s father received letters while in prison from head coaches attempting to get him to persuade Nelson to sign with their school, and the player himself received 2,161 pieces of mail from his suitors. He decided Robinson’s school was right for him, someone who, ironically enough, didn’t send him as much as a post card. After having to sit out his first season with the team due to NCAA eligibility issues, he averaged 7.5 PPG as a freshman role player. His biggest jump came last season when he became one of the most feared shooters in the Pac-12 and went from 9.3 PPG as a sophomore to a 17.8 PPG clip. Nelson is most known for his unbelievably deep range and perpetual green light from the coaching staff, but he is most effective on the dribble-drive, capable of twisting and turning through the lane without picking up his pivot foot, eventually finding his way to the hoop. Outside of basketball, he was a huge part of a student service trip to Macedonia a few years ago, and brought us this excellent clip from his time there. If Nelson can step up on the defensive end of the floor, he has a good shot of making an NBA roster as a free agent.

Favorite Moment: Hitting back-to-back three pointers without a shoe against Stanford.

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Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by Drew Murawa on February 14th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. We’ve got a rare Friday night Pac-12 game tonight and, first off, I’m not sure how to feel about this. After years of Thursday/Saturday games and maybe the occasional Sunday game, I’ve had a hard enough time getting used to Wednesday games and 6pm weekday tip-times. And the unbalanced conference schedule is a non-starter. But a Friday night game? And on Valentine’s Day of all days? Suffice it to say I’m not feeling the love. But, my opinion doesn’t matter and so Arizona and Arizona State will go at it tonight. Arizona keeps plugging along in the wake of the Brandon Ashley injury, but what we thought we be one of their biggest weaknesses coming into the season – perimeter shooting –  is now exacerbated. As Steve Rivera of Fox Sports Arizona points out, against Oregon last week, the Wildcats couldn’t hit anything outside of 12 feet or so. But against Oregon State, the perimeter shooting was strong. For the Wildcats to live up to their Final Four dreams, they’ll need to find a way to regularly knock down enough perimeter shots to keep opposing defenses honest.
  2. Meanwhile, for Arizona State, senior center Jordan Bachynski is not only the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week and newly crowned career blocked shots leader, but he’s arguably the hottest player in the conference. This kind of play bordered on unimaginable as he was struggling through his freshman season little more than a tall body getting pushed around and showing no offensive skill. His offensive rating (per KenPom) was 91.6 as a freshman, he was shooting below 50% from the field and right at 50% from the line. This year, that ORtg is over 116, he’s at about 60% from the field and pushing 70% from the free throw line. And, he’s become a better shotblocker and rebounder over the years too. His head coach Herb Sendek goes so far as to call him the most improved player in the nation over the last three and a half years and it is hard to argue with him.
  3. The other rivalry game this weekend is Oregon State at Oregon, a game that could feature some trash talking. And, for Beaver star Roberto Nelson, that talking is welcomed. Last week against Arizona State, after a lackluster first half, Nelson responded to Sun Devil Shaquielle McKissic’s trash talking with a 24-point outburst after halftime, an explosion that Nelson partially attributes to his response to the talk. However, if you’re looking for a similar situation to occur this weekend against the Ducks, don’t hold your breath, as Nelson says this Oregon team is largely free of trash talkers.
  4. Another big factor for the Beavers this weekend will be the play of senior big man Angus Brandt who has bounced back nicely from last year’s ACL injury. However, despite a strong start to the season, his three-point shooting, something he was well-known for prior to the injury, had not entirely returned. But, over the last three games, Brandt has hit four of five from deep. If he can continue to knock his shots in from deep, he’ll help Oregon State stretch out the defense for guys like Nelson to penetrate and for big men Devon Collier and Eric Moreland to work in the paint.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. We head to the desert for our game of the week, where both Drew and myself are taking upset-minded Arizona State in a rare Friday conference game. Adam is sticking with his Wildcats in the Territorial Cup.
    Game Connor (17-3) Drew (12-8) Adam (11-9)
    Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona
    Utah @ UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Colorado @ USC Colorado Colorado Colorado
    Stanford @ Washington State Stanford Stanford Stanford
    California @ Washington Washington California California
    Oregon State @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
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Oregon State Slowly But Surely Returning to Relevance

Posted by Rockne Andrew Roll (@raroll) on February 3rd, 2014

Rockne Andrew Roll is an RTC correspondent. You can also find him at @raroll. Rockne filed this report after Oregon State’s upset victory over UCLA Sunday afternoon.

A year ago, Oregon State was 1-8 in conference play and well on its way to Craig Robinson’s third losing season in five years in Corvallis. This year? UCLA’s Steve Alford summed it up rather succinctly after the Bruins’ 71-67 loss at Gill Coliseum on Sunday. His words were not intended for public consumption, but his frustration with his team’s performance gave his words such volume that they were crystal clear on the other side of the cinder block wall that separates the visiting locker room from the press room. “They’re not so bad now, are they?” Alford said of the Beavers, who are now 5-4 in Pac-12 play.

Cooke, left, and Roberto Nelson have led the Beavers to victory in four of their last five conference games. (Rockne Andrew Roll/RTC)

Hallice Cooke, left, and Roberto Nelson have led the Beavers to victory in four of their last five conference games. (Rockne Andrew Roll/RTC)

After the disappointment of last season, the impact of beating the second-place team in the conference wasn’t lost on Robinson. “I have to reiterate how big that win was to our team, our program, to our school,” he said. “It’s been 14 or 15 years since we’ve been this relevant, this late in the season. It’s not by accident.” Nor was it lost on his players, particularly his seniors, who have suffered through many a heartbreak. “We haven’t been above .500 this late in the season since I’ve been here. From a fifth-year senior standpoint, it’s absolutely massive,” said senior center Angus Brandt. “It’s what we’ve been working toward this entire time. In terms of confidence, it just solidifies in our mind that we’re a team to compete with in this conference.”

So what’s changed since last year? Quite a bit. For starters, true freshman guard Hallice Cooke has worked his way into the starting lineup alongside Roberto Nelson and Langston Morris-Walker, demonstrating his quality with a 7-of-9 shooting performance and a game-high 20 points against the Bruins. Beyond simply scoring, though, Cooke has already put himself in a position of leadership within the Beavers’ locker room. “I don’t consider him a freshman anymore,” junior forward Eric Moreland said of Cooke. “That’s the point guard, he’s our point guard now. I’m an upperclassmen, but anything he has to say, I’m going to listen. I know he knows what he’s talking about. He’s been on the big stage before and he puts in the work. He’s a leader. As a freshman, that says a lot.”

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Pac-12′s Good Players on Bad Teams

Posted by AMurawa on January 28th, 2014

While the Pac-12 may not be all it was cracked up to be early in the season, eight of the conference teams have generally been regarded for most of the past month or so as at least good. That leaves four teams at the bottom of the conference – USC, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State – that haven’t been taken seriously and that have been described, at one point or another, as straight out bad. A couple of those teams are beginning to come around some, but really until they prove themselves over long stretches, we’re still going to group them at the bottom of the Pac. But, aside from being bad teams, another thing that each of these teams has in common is (at least) one very good player. We’re not spending a ton of time here talking about the Trojans, Beavers, Huskies, and Cougars, but today we’ll give those very good players their due.

Byron Wesley Gets Forgotten Playing With USC, But He's Been Excellent As A Junior (John McGillen)

Byron Wesley Gets Forgotten Playing At USC, But He’s Been Excellent As A Junior (John McGillen)

Byron Wesley, USC – Maybe you haven’t seen Andy Enfield’s first crack at turning the Galen Center into a basketball Mecca, and if so, no one would blame you. The roster is a mishmash of parts, many of whom are ill-suited to Enfield’s style, let along major conference basketball. But Wesley? This dude would carve out a spot anywhere in the nation. In the past, he’s been known as a solid fundamental wing who is best at the defensive end of the court, and he’s still very much that, but offensively he’s blossomed in his junior year. Despite playing approximately the same number of minutes as he’s played his first two years with the Trojans, his number of possessions used has skyrocketed and in turn his per game averages in points, rebounds, and assists have all ballooned, all while playing at a more efficient level than ever before. While the range on his jumper is still a work in progress (he is just 10-for-34 from deep this year), he’s turned into a solid mid-range shooter. But most impressively, his game off the bounce is far better than it has been in the past, and he’s been getting past defenders, getting into the lane, getting better than 45% of his shots at the rim and converting a healthy percentage of those. And defensively? Goodness, one would shudder to think how bad this USC team would be without the ball if Wesley were not around. Case in point, Wednesday night in their best win of the season over a streaking Cal team. Wesley checked Golden Bear sophomore wing Tyrone Wallace the bulk of the night, and held him to his first single-digit scoring output since early December, on just 2/10 shooting. Wesley may not be as flashy as some of the guys we’re going to talk about later, but if he was playing on a better team, he’d be getting all sorts of accolades.

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Oregon State Finds Success By Swapping Starting Point Guards

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 23rd, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a Northwest-based national columnist for Rush The Court and filed this report Wednesday night from Washington State’s Friel Court in Pullman.

Craig Robinson might have just figured it out just in time to make something of this Pac-12 season. The Oregon State coach, who has struggled for consistent point guard play since taking over in Corvallis back in 2008, has given the reins of the offense to freshman guard Hallice Cooke in the last four games, and it’s paid immediate dividends. After a middling non-conference performance that included losses to Coppin State, DePaul and Hawaii, and an 0-2 start to conference play, Robinson put Cooke in the starting lineup in place of junior Challe Barton, and the Beavers (11-7, 3-3 Pac-12) have looked like a different team.

Oregon State point guard Hallice Cooke (#3) has started the last four games, in which the Beavers have gone 3-1. (AP)

Oregon State point guard Hallice Cooke (#3) has started the last four games, in which the Beavers have gone 3-1. (AP)

Let’s not forget that Oregon State shooting guard Roberto Nelson is the top-scoring player in the Pac-12, putting in more than 21 points per night, and the Beavers’ interior triumvirate of Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier each average more than 10 points per game themselves. Cooke doesn’t have to do a lot to help his team. But his skill set – the third-best three-point shooting rate in the country at nearly 56 percent, and the team’s second-best assist rate behind Nelson – fits well within the construct of a team led by three inside scorers and a perimeter scorer (Nelson) who commands double-teams. The Beavers have a 3-1 record in games in which Cooke has started, including home upsets of Stanford and Oregon, and a 66-55 road win at Washington State on Wednesday night.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Ten

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 22nd, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the tenth week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa and Adam Butler):

Arizona is once again the unanimous top choice this week, and the next two spots below the Wildcats were in complete agreement as well. Check the full results below.

Junior Guard Nick Johnson Led The Wildcats With 17 Points In Their Rivalry Win Against Arizona State

Junior Guard Nick Johnson Led The Wildcats With 17 Points In Their Rivalry Win Against Arizona State

  1. Arizona (18-0, 3 Points). Comment: ”The Wildcats have restored championship pride in a city that seemed to be dying on the vine after Lute Olson’s empire crumbled, after the Cactus League pulled up stakes and headed up the interstate.” – Dan Bickley (@danbickley)
  2. California (14-4, 6 Points). Comment: “Pac-12 has changed so much in just three weeks. UO and Colorado no longer contenders & UCLA has been exposed. Cal appears to be the only challenger to Arizona.” – Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28)
  3. UCLA (14-4, 9 Points). Comment: “I’m so over this @UCLAMBB team. Not watching them the rest of the season. See y’all when spring football starts. Peace.” – Miguel Melendez (@MelendezSports)
  4. Stanford (12-5, 13 Points). Comment: “Viewed in isolation, one may argue that Stanford has experienced a few bad breaks with the “injury bug”; however, in the context of the last four seasons, a disturbing trend emerges around Dawkins’ inability to keep his players healthy. In Dawkins’ five and a half seasons, there have been eight season-ending injuries; in the six seasons prior to Dawkins’ arrival, there were three.” – Daniel Jacobson (@danieljacobson_) Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Non-Conference Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton128) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 1st, 2014

As part of the conclusion of the non-conference slate, it’s time for Connor and Drew to recognize some of the Pac-12 highlights through nearly two months of the regular season. We’ll cover all the basics: Player of the Year; Coach of the Year; Freshman of the Year; an all-conference team to this point; as well as the biggest surprises and disappointments. And we’ll give you our rationale on each. So let’s get right to it, and let us know where you disagree.

Player of the Year – There’s still a lot of hoop left, so we’ll each give you our current top three picks in this category and some reasons why.

Connor’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Young has been the cornerstone of Oregon’s offense, scoring in double figures in each game and acting as the guy to lift them whenever they hit a scoring lull.
  2. Roberto Nelson. The conference’s leading scorer has put up at least 17 points or more in each game the Beavers have played, save the contest against Towson in which he was ejected for attempting to throw a punch eight minutes into the contest.
  3. Jahii Carson. Jahiisus, who just might be the quickest point guard in the country, steps up whenever he is called upon for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils. Whether it’s been a 40-point performance at UNLV or a 23-point showing to beat nationally-ranked Marquette, no stage is too big for the super sophomore.
Oregon's Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top's Both Of Our Voters' Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Oregon’s Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top’s Both Of Our Voters’ Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Drew’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Might as well make it unanimous. While Young has had plenty of help in Eugene, he’s been the best offensive player on a team chock-full of them.
  2. Jahii Carson. Expectations were high enough for Carson coming into the year so that his 19.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG and 51.4 percent three-point shooting are seen as almost a disappointment. Which is ridiculous. Expect him to be a big part of the Pac-12 POY conversation when all is said and done.
  3. Delon Wright. He’s come out of nowhere and hasn’t exactly played against great competition, but his production has been fantastic across the board. If he can keep this up, he’ll be in contention for this award come March.

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Holiday Hoops Mission Briefing: Oregon State In The Diamond Head Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 21st, 2013

One Pac-12 early-season tournament remains, and we break down the road ahead this Christmas for Oregon State.

What They’ve Done So Far: If you could use one word to describe the start to Oregon State‘s season, strange would fit the bill. The Beavers opened with a loss to now 4-5 Coppin State, but they were without starting forward Devon Collier, who is averaging 21.3 PPG and 9.6 RPG, who served a one game suspension because of a failed drug test administered during the summer. They have since won six of their last seven, two of which coming against possible NCAA Tournament teams in Maryland and Towson.

Combo Forward Devon Collier Has Been A Force Down Low For The Beavers So Far This Season (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Combo Forward Devon Collier Has Been A Force Down Low For The Beavers So Far This Season (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

First Round Preview: The Beavers kickoff play in Honolulu on Sunday afternoon against Akron. Everything goes through senior forward Demetrius Treadwell for the Zips, who averages 14.6 PPG. But while Treadwell dominates the post, there are plenty of other targets that the soft Beaver defense will have to keep an eye on. Sophomore small forward Reggie McAdams has good range and has knocked down 12 of 25 three-point attempts for a 48% clip. Another senior big, Quincy Diggs is a top ten player in the MAC and can play any position except center. Diggs is the team’s second leading scorer, but his defense his key. When playing man, expect head coach Keith Dambrot to put him on the Beavers’ senior Roberto Nelson, who leads the team with 22.1 PPG. If the Zips have any shot of an at-large bid come March, they will need a win here, so I expect them to come out firing on all cylinders. This one should come down to a battle between Collier and Treadwell in the paint. The winner of that battle advances into the winner’s bracket. Definitely a game to watch late Sunday as you enter your Christmas vacation.

Potential Later Round Matchup: Considering the Beavers tend to play up to their competition, and that they will have a decided home court advantage with at least 300 Oregon State fans making the trip with the football team playing in the Hawaii Bowl two days later, I’m going to project a tight win and send them into a semifinal matchup, most likely against #17 Iowa State, who faces 5-4 George Mason in its opener. I don’t see the Beavs springing a Top 20 upset, however, and if the bracket holds to form, they would face Boise State in the third place game (less than 24 hours after the Beavers and Broncos meet on the gridiron across the way at Aloha Stadium). Another possible choice in that third game is Saint Mary’s, who comes to the Islands boasting a 9-0 record.

Outlook: For the Beavers to have any decent chance at the NCAA Tournament, they need two wins in Honolulu. And with teams like Southern Illinois Edwardsville and Arkansas-Pine Bluff dragging down Oregon State’s RPI, a trip to the winner’s bracket is also a must. A loss to Akron would mean George Mason on day two and most likely Hawaii in the final game, much less appealing games. You can catch Oregon State’s opener at 4:45 PM Pacific on Sunday on ESPNU.

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Hatin’ Larry Krystkowiak: Christmas Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 20th, 2013

A Pac-12 adaption of Every Day Should Be Saturday’s Hatin’ Steve Spurrier character. 

credit: The Grizzoulian

Larry is in a Holiday Mood This Week

  • Well, Barry Hinson, you may have gone viral and put Southern Illinois on the map for the first time in a while, but you’re not going to like what’s in your stocking on Wednesday.
  • Washington‘s two-game winning streak will likely come to an end this weekend against Connecticut. Will we see another two straight wins for the Dawgs this season? Are Idaho State and Tulane on the schedule again? The answer is in there somewhere.
  • Oregon State‘s celebrating Christmas in Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, meaning it will have played games in the DC area, Chicago, and Honolulu in the first two months of the season. Someone tell Craig Robinson he doesn’t have to schedule every city inhabited by President Obama at some point or another.
  • Time to brag about my team. Nine wins y’all. What’s that you say about the third easiest schedule in the nation? Haters gonna hate.
  • It sucks that Roberto Nelson was ejected for throwing a punch (skip to 1:07 of the video to view) against Towson on Wednesday, but at least that’s the toughest defense the Beavers have played all season. Regardless, Nelson makes Santa’s naughty list.

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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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