Pac-12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2013

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  1. News on this UCLA head coaching search is moving quickly with Pete Thamel reporting that the Bruins are moving on down the list as Shaka Smart is working on an extension with VCU and Brad Stevens is reportedly not interested in the job. From out of the blue, apparently UCLA boosters are interested in their former assistant coach and current N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried is fresh off of leading a team with arguably more talent that this year’s UCLA team to a fourth-place tie in the ACC and an early NCAA Tournament exit. Throw in his four other exits from the NCAA Tournament in his team’s first game, one Sweet Sixteen and one Elite Eight in nine Tournament appearances, and it is clear just what an upgrade he would be over UCLA’s former coach.
  2. Across town, one of USC’s potential targets for its open head coaching position is now officially off the market, as Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has committed to staying in his current position at Memphis and is working on details for a new five-year contract. But as the search for a new coach continues, you’ve got to wonder exactly what athletic director Pat Haden has been doing for the last couple months. Ostensibly, part of the reason that Kevin O’Neill was fired abruptly in the middle of the season was so that USC could get a jump start on finding a new guy. Apparently, that hasn’t worked out so well, which is just one reason I get a kick out of seeing things like “USC is a better job than UCLA” every so often these last couple days.
  3. The Pac-12 conference announced its All-Academic teams for basketball today and, before we get to the names on those teams, let’s just say we’re grateful that these teams only have five players on each team. Good to see that whoever is putting these teams together has more sense than those who come up with the 10-man All-Conference team. Anyway, here’s the five-man first team, with all players checking in with a GPA above 3.5: Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Carrick Felix from Arizona State, Jeremy Olsen from Utah, and John Gage and Robbie Lemons, both from Stanford. The second team features four additional Stanford players (Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle), with a seventh player from that roster (Anthony Brown) earning honorable mention. Special congratulations go out to Powell for being the only guy on these lists to also earn RTC All-Pac-12 first team honors. And, taking in that impressive haul makes it a lot clearer why Johnny Dawkins is getting another chance on The Farm.
  4. California’s season ended on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse in the round of 32, equaling the program’s best NCAA Tournament finish in the last 16 years. And so the question that California Golden Blogs asks is, does that make the season a success? The answers are almost resoundingly positive, with people noting that in the middle of January, the Golden Bears probably weren’t even on the radar for an NCAA invite, but that first stat – no Sweet Sixteen since 1997 – that’s gotta sting a little bit.
  5. Lastly, we’ve offered up our opinions on what we hope many of the Pac-12 underclassmen decide with regards to the NBA Draft, but Jack Follman of Pacific Takes also offers up his observations, suggesting that, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, who is already gone, Dewayne Dedmon and Allen Crabbe may well be the only other guys around the conference who leave early. While we hope that would ultimately be the case, as Eric Moreland has already shown us, there are always a couple of guys that come from off the radar to make peculiar decisions to leave early. Stay tuned.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 11th, 2013

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  1. Following UCLA’s terrible performance Wednesday night against Washington State, it looked like the Bruins had tossed away their chance to win the outright Pac-12 regular season title. But with a solid win over Washington on Saturday coupled with Utah upsetting Oregon, the Bruins went down as the Pac-12 champion for the first time since 2007-08. Following the game, the team assembled in the hallway at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, borrowed Washington’s 2011-12 conference championship trophy and staged their own impromptu celebration. While the team still has plenty of goals left to chase, for a day at least, expectations have been met and the criticism can maybe not cease, but at least pause.
  2. In advance of this week’s conference tournament, there is a chance that USC, already an underdog, could be playing shorthanded due to a case of late-season stupidity. There are reports out of Spokane that following USC’s Saturday night blowout loss to Washington State, “several basketball players” were “shouting anti-Spokane rhetoric” (which may well be my favorite phrase of the season) outside of a downtown bar. Fights (at least two) ensued and the end result was four people getting sent to the hospital. No names of players involved have been released as of Midnight on Sunday, but there are reports of a seven-foot, 260-pound center (there are three different USC players who could fit that general description) looking drunk and belligerent and who, according to the reports of an employee of one of the bars in the area, “basically admitted to hitting several people, including two women.” Stay tuned.
  3. Colorado’s conference tournament will start off with a rematch, as they’ll face a last-place Oregon State team that just beat up on them on Saturday. But prior to that game, Tad Boyle will make sure his Buffaloes show up in Las Vegas with something to prove. With Andre Roberson apparently in a battle with mononucleosis which may well end his season, Colorado is going to have to find somebody else to step up and lead this team as tournament play begins. Another point to think about: If the selection committee is going to make choices based on their current rosters, could CU get dinged and perhaps left to the NIT if Roberson’s season is in jeopardy?
  4. If Colorado can get out of that first round game with Oregon State, who will be waiting for them in the quarterfinals but their new-found rival, Arizona. The Wildcats slipped all the way to the fourth seed in this week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Vegas and we could be due for a tiebreaker. After January’s infamous Sabatino Chen monitor-reviewed shot, Colorado bounced back to easily handle the Wildcats in Boulder, but heading into the most important stretch of the season, neither team is playing particularly well.
  5. Later today, we’ll unveil our Pac-12 awards, just as the conference will. But if you want a preview as to what those awards might look like, Peter Yoon of ESPN LA has your rundown. He’s got Allen Crabbe sneaking out the Player of the Year award over Shabazz Muhammad and Jahii Carson, Dana Altman taking down Coach of the Year over Ben Howland and Mike Montgomery and Muhammad squeaking out a win over Carson for Freshman of the Year. Plenty of discussions could be have over all of these picks (and the rest of the picks Yoon makes), as none of the candidates are clear winners in any of the categories.
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Celebrating Colorado Seniors Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-Tunks

Posted by PBaruh on March 9th, 2013

This week the Pac-12 microsite is celebrating many of the seniors around the league. Today: Colorado’s Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-Tunks.

Sabatino Chen 

When Sabatino Chen transferred from Denver to Colorado, there was no excitement. He wasn’t Carlon Brown. He was the local kid down the road in Louisville who averaged a minuscule 2.5 points per game in his time there. But Chen transferred to Colorado at an opportune time as Tad Boyle created a new brand of basketball and was open to letting anyone who was willing to work hard play for him. Chen was at best, however, expected to be a role player for the Buffs.

Sabatino Chen has improved immensely in his senior year

Sabatino Chen has improved immensely in his senior year. (Daily Wildcat)

Chen averaged only nine minutes per game in his first season in Boulder, yet he brought everything that didn’t show up in the box score. He was the guy everyone hated if he wasn’t on your team. He was a defensive pest, tirelessly diving for loose balls. Offensively, he struggled. He’d cross over from right to left and try to get up a left-handed layup where it would seemingly always get blocked; or spin in the lane and throw up an out of control attempt. Nonetheless, Chen continued to work hard and prepared for his senior year.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Most Memorable Moment?

Posted by AMurawa on March 9th, 2013

As we get ready for out last weekend of the regular season, we start with a quick look back at the last few months before we get ready to look ahead to the bulk of March. As such, we asked a simple question:

What has been your favorite moment this season?

Adam Butler: The best moment is one of my favorite questions. Certainly at a time of year (I think I’ve used that as a lead like 200 times thus far in just one week of March) when just a single moment can define so much. But across the course of about thirty games per team, over wins and losses, ups and downs, there have been so many. Cobbs, Gordon, and Drew II have all beat the buzzer. Chen tried to. The conference had its first matchup of ranked opponents since March 2009. Game Day visited the Conference and Bill Walton grabbed the torch (or bullhorn) of touting the Pac’s return. There’s been so much to enjoy all the season long and, to be completely honest, the year’s most memorable moment is yet to come. Something is going to happen inside the MGM, or someone is going to do something in the Dance we’ll talk about for years to come, “Remember when…” But to that effect, I’m going to make the homer pick. Because as Arizona had the improbable opportunity to take the lead at home against Florida, I was squatting on top of my couch. I had two friends locked in arms to my left and an air of tension thicker than Kaleb Tarczewski. The Lyons floater fell and we (in my apartment and in Tucson) went controllably wild. And then the backboard went red and we went uncontrollably wild. My kinda moment.

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

Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 14th, 2013

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  1. Last night began the last month of the regular season in the Pac-12. With just four weeks of conference play remaining, everybody is jockeying for placement in advance of March, which makes Arizona State’s loss at Utah last night all the more troubling. For a team already right on that borderline between the NIT and the NCAAs, the Sun Devils rebounded from a lackluster first half that saw them trailing by seven at the break to build up an eight-point lead with under eight minutes to go and a six-point lead with under three to go. And then ASU proceeded to score exactly one basket over its final seven possessions, while allowing the Utes to score 13 points over that same stretch. And in the process, the Sun Devils may have given away the game that could prevent them from dancing on Selection Sunday.
  2. Meanwhile, Oregon has somewhat righted their ship, going into Seattle last night and knocking off Washington for its second-consecutive victory following a three-game slide. Jonathan Loyd was the big star, filling in for Dominic Artis with a big 11-point second half (making for a season-high in points) to help the Ducks cruise past the Huskies. However, at the end of the game with the outcome no longer in doubt, Loyd took a hard foul and appeared to sustain a knee injury as he remained on the ground in pain for some time. After the game, Loyd said that he thinks he’ll be okay and could be in uniform this weekend for Oregon’s trip to Pullman. Artis, meanwhile, will miss one more game but is expected to return next week when the Ducks host the Bay Area schools.
  3. Despite three Final Fours in his past, the drumbeat for the end of Ben Howland’s era as head coach at UCLA grows louder by the week, and last week’s scathing commentary by Bruin legend Bill Walton on an ESPN telecast has ratcheted up the pressure. But, as Ryan Menezes of the Daily Bruin writes, there are more things wrong in the UCLA program that just the head coach. This season in a newly renovated Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins have struggled to fill the house that Wooden built and have often played in front of sparse crowds. Is that a response to Howland’s style of play and recent lack of success? Or is that just the nature of the beast for an aging fan base of a program whose glory days are 40 years in the past? I know this much: Even in the depths of the Billy Gillispie days, Kentucky was still leading the nation in attendance. Even when North Carolina was preparing to divorce Matt Doherty, they were still putting fannies in 18,000-plus seats per night. Even when Mike Davis was turning in a sub-.500 year in Bloomington or Tom Crean was limping home to a 10-win season, they were doing so in front of 16,000 Indiana fans. UCLA fans in no way belong in the same discussion as those blue-blood fan bases (for comparison, as UCLA went to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, they couldn’t reach an average of 8,000 fans in attendance), let along up-and-coming programs like San Diego State in their own backyard. That? That’s on the fans, not the coach.
  4. In advance of tonight’s rematch with Colorado, Arizona is looking forward to playing with Nick Johnson back at full strength. You see, a couple weeks back when the Wildcats traveled to the Washington schools, Johnson was significantly weakened by a stomach virus. And, over the past couple weeks, his numbers have dropped, in part due to that illness; since the virus reared its ugly head prior to the Washington State game, Johnson hasn’t scored in double figures and is just 5-of-18 from the field, quite a dip for a guy who has otherwise shot a better than 53% eFG this season. But, Johnson assures the Daily Wildcat that he is ready to go this week for the trip to the Rockies.
  5. As for Colorado, they’ve waited 42 days for their crack at revenge against Arizona for their controversial loss in Tucson. Not that they’ve been counting or anything. The same evening after refs waved off Sabatino Chen’s apparent game-winning buzzer-beater, the C-Unit has been planning for the Valentine’s Day Massacre in the Coors Event Center. And in the interim, as the Buffaloes have turned in lackluster performances against Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and UCLA, there has been talk that the team was still suffering from the hangover from that game. Well, tonight’s the night they get to take their frustration out, and they better do it well. Because if there’s one thing worse than thinking you’ve had a game stolen from you, it is spending 42 days waiting for your chance to gain revenge and then failing when the chance is finally presented to you.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

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  1. We are still probably a couple months away from when USC will announce its next head coach, but everybody’s got an opinion about who that might be. I tossed out the usual suspects and a few sleepers a few days ago, but Andy Katz, who’s certainly far more tied in than I, has a few interesting big name possibilities of his own: Texas’ Rick Barnes, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar. Katz’s reasoning is that these are all guys who might want to get out of their current jobs ahead of getting fired in exchange for a nice brand new contract and a new landscape, citing Herb Sendek as a real pioneer in this field. While I don’t see Romar as approaching the hot seat yet (although, if he doesn’t land Aaron Gordon, maybe we can talk about that possibility approaching), it is an interesting angle. And, given that Romar is a native southern Californian, anything is possible.
  2. Whoever winds up in the USC job is going to have to do a much better job mining the copious amounts of basketball talent in the Los Angeles area than Kevin O’Neill ever did. In fact, they’re probably going to have to do a better job than even Ben Howland is currently doing at UCLA. As friend-of-the-blog Adam Butler writes, those Los Angeles schools have done a terrible job in recent years keeping elite local talents at home, citing guys like James Harden, Jordan Hamilton, Kawhi Leonard, and Derrick Williams as kids who got away. If Pat Haden can find a guy who can simply land a handful of the high quality recruits right in his own backyard, he has the opportunity to shift the landscape in the Pac-12. And really, everywhere out west.
  3. In the wake of UCLA’s road trip to the Rocky Mountains that coincided with a big snowstorm, the team’s MVP for the week goes to not Shabazz Muhammad, not Kyle Anderson, not Jordan Adams, but… the bus driver? As Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West reports, the Bruins were in danger of not making it to the arena due to adverse weather conditions and a well-placed hill. But the driver saved the day with a lead foot and an iron constitution.
  4. Colorado was UCLA’s last victim on its recent road trip, and in the wake of three losses in four games, the Buffaloes are trying to do everything they can to right their ship, including a players-only meeting on Sunday initiated by Sabatino Chen and Andre Roberson which ran for 30 minutes. The coaches too are trying to figure out what they can do to shift the tide, but one thing Tad Boyle is longing for is the leadership ability of departed senior Nate Tomlinson, who brought a win-at-all-costs nature and a vocal quality to the team that is now missing. Still, Boyle recognizes that this team isn’t far away from being where it needs to be and hopes somebody can grow into the team’s new leader.
  5. Lastly, David Piper of Addicted to Quack has a good statistical profile of what makes Oregon a conference contender. While the Ducks have struggled with turnovers in the early going in part due to a pair of freshman guards, Piper notes that those numbers are dropping while UO’s three-point shooting (which got off to a terrible start) is rising. Combine those factors with rock-solid numbers elsewhere, including a defensive efficiency number good enough for 20th in the nation, and the Ducks are not only understandably good, but they are improving.
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College Basketball By The Tweets: CBS Infighting, Khalif Wyatt and #BBN

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2013

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It was good to hear from Kim English over the weekend. The former Missouri Tiger, perhaps a player whose on-court talents were inflated by the media due to his charming personality and usage of Twitter, is now playing in the D-League for the Detroit Pistons. But he’s still closely watching his Tigers, who escaped an upset from Bucknell due mostly to their really freakin’ good point guard.

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Something tells me he’s on the fast track to being a studio analyst.

Doug Gottleib and Seth Davis Disagree on Jim Boeheim

I could elaborate, or you could just read about their exchange of tweets, courtesy of Jared Smith at NunesMagician.com. Let’s all appreciate the love/hate these two share with one another.

(Uncle) Khalif Wyatt?

We hope you were watching, but understand it may have been difficult to give Temple – Kansas your undivided attention alongside the NFL Playoffs. What you missed may have been the coming out party for Khalif Wyatt, who dropped 26 on 8-of-19 shooting (and 7-of-7 from the free throw line) in a losing effort. He also turned the ball over just once

There’s no doubt that Wyatt is a legitimate point guard with a unique look and feel to his game… like Uncle Drew, without the staged playground game and hours of make-up. Old folks can appreciate style.

Now between his game against Kansas and 33 points against Syracuse, it’s fair to say that Wyatt is licensed to hang a big number on any opponent this season.

Sabatino Chen, Colorado Gets Robbed

The hottest button college basketball topic of the week was unquestionably the final seconds of the Pac-12 opener between Colorado and Arizona. You know the deal: Colorado blew an eight-point lead with under two minutes to play, and Satabtino Chen’s bank shot three-pointer as time expired as called off… but it shouldn’t have been.

Twitter went nuts. At first the shot did look too close to call, meaning it should not have been overturned to begin with. And after America watched for the 17th time, it was clear that 0.1 seconds remained on the clock and Satabino’s shot should have counted. Lost in this moment’s was Chen’s lack of accuracy from beyond the arc. Despite being a 6’4″ guard, he’s simply not a respected shooter.

Additionally, props to those who simply felt sorry for Chen, as he’s now college basketball Armando Galarraga, the former Detroit Tigers pitcher who was wrongly deined a perfect game due to a botched bang-bang play at first base a few summers ago. Not only is this a big bummer for the Buffs, it’s a huge bummer for Chen, who could develop a bit of a cult hero status in Boulder for a few years to come.

#BBN Gets Richer

Keeping up with the (Matt) Joneses is going to be nearly impossible next college basketball season. That’s right, John Calipari has pretty much put together a perfect 2013 recruiting class following the latest signing of center Dakari Johnson, with an Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle likely to follow.

Naturally, the smug responses came in droves… and they probably still are if you follow the hashtag #BBN.

Oh yeah, and this dude will be in Lexington in 2014.

I hate you, sometimes, Kentucky. I hate you.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 8th, 2013

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  1. Three months ago, Malcolm and Marcus Allen committed to Stanford. But as we get into the thick of hoops season, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a nice feature on the twins yesterday. The Allens, out of Centennial High School (Nevada), have both earned astounding 4.8 GPAs while in high school, which resulted in offers from Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, among others. When asked why they chose Johnny Dawkins and the Cardinal over the rest, the brothers said that Stanford’s perfect mix of athletics and academics was just too good to pass up, not to mention the fact the Pac-12 is a “premier conference.” The one and two guards will be battling Chasson Randle for minutes in their freshmen season next year.
  2. It was painful for fans of upsets everywhere on Saturday afternoon when Arizona continued to give Utah chance after chance at beating the Wildcats on their home floor, only to see the Utes tighten up in the closing minutes. Scoring has been a problem in the Larry Krystowiak era, but as of late, it’s been the three-point shot that has plagued the Utes. Utah missed three of its final four shots from behind the arc, a stinging stat considering the Utes suffered only a three-point loss. Utah’s leading scorer, Loyola Marymount transfer Jarred DuBois, is in the midst of a big slump, and it seems to be contagious. Their outside stroke won’t be needed to earn a split on the weekend, considering offensively-challenged USC rolls into Salt Lake City on Saturday, but if the Utes have any shot at an upset of UCLA earlier in the week, DuBois and the rest of the team need to do some serious slump-busting.
  3. The guys over at House of Sparky continually churn out great stuff, and yesterday they took a look at why the Sun Devils’ win over Colorado was so huge for the program. The first sentence pretty much sums up my thoughts on the win. I had been skeptical for all of November and December of the Sun Devils, thinking that their win total was just the product of an easy schedule. But on Sunday, Arizona State proved it was legit. The Devils completely took Andre Roberson out of the game, and with a combination of Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix, and Jordan Bachynski all attacking the ball, ASU gave the Buffaloes a migraine on defense. If they can keep up this level of play for the next two months, an NCAA Tournament bid isn’t out of the question.
  4. Sticking with HoS and Arizona State, if the Sun Devils do want to return to the Big Dance, they’ll need to knock down clutch free throws as games wind down. They haven’t done a great job in this area so far in 2012-13, shooting at less than a 63% clip from the charity stripe. One thing that is becoming a noticeable trend with ASU is that all of its shots — but specifically free throws — are falling short towards the end of games. And of course, that makes sense; the more tired you get, the tougher it is for players’ legs to launch the ball to the hoop. But I want to start talking about Herb Sendek‘s guys as a legitimate Pac-12 contender, and contenders make big shots down the stretch rather than leaving them short when their bodies start wearing down.
  5. For every “make you feel good” underdog story, there is another one to tell on the other side of the spectrum. The team lost in the shuffle after the first week of Pac-12 play was Colorado, who looked flat-out awful in the 45 minutes following Sabatino Chen‘s waved off game-winner at Arizona on Thursday. But as head coach Tad Boyle points out, nothing is given to you in conference play, and the Buffs need to have a short memory. Because as he puts it, they’re currently on the road to 0-18, and if they don’t prepare well for a visit from the LA schools, that road will get quite a bit shorter by Saturday night.
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Evaluating Colorado’s Lost Weekend in the Grand Canyon State

Posted by AMurawa on January 7th, 2013

Just looking at the way the schedule set up, one way or the other, Colorado was going to have problems with Arizona State on Sunday. Even in some alternate universe where the Buffaloes remained strong down the stretch on Thursday night, took care of the ball and hit some free throws on their way to a double-figure win over Arizona, you just knew they were going to have a tough time with the back end of their Arizona road trip after looking ahead to that conference opener since the schedule was announced.

And yet, at the under-12 media timeout, the Buffaloes were up 17-4 and cruising. But, here’s where the insidious hangover effect kicked in. Rather than take out all their pent-up frustration over Thursday night’s controversial loss to Arizona, CU eased up just slightly, Arizona State got a couple of easy baskets, and the momentum for the rest of the evening shifted, never to return. After hitting eight of their first 14 attempts from the field, the Buffaloes hit less than 30% of their shots the rest of the night, including just 1-of-17 from beyond the arc. Even worse, while their opponent started 2-of-12 from the field with five turnovers in their first 15 possessions, they had just five turnovers in their last 48 possessions and hit better than 50% of their field goals the rest of the way — in part because Colorado’s defensive intensity left for an early flight back to Boulder. As Spencer Dinwiddie put it, “As a group, we stopped playing defense and stopped rebounding.” And so the Buffaloes return home from a weekend in Arizona with nothing to show for their efforts.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Despite An 0-2 Start In Conference Play, All Is Not Lost For Colorado (Daily Camera)

Where to go from here? Well, the good news is they’ll be back in the friendly confines of Coors Event Center next week, as they host the Los Angeles schools, and they’ve won 41 of their last 45 games there; that stat alone indicates that nothing will heal up this Buffs team like some good old-fashioned home cooking. But, there are some deeper, long-term concerns for this team. First if not foremost is that pesky free-throw shooting thing. Back in November, the Buffaloes did their best to give away the title game of the Charleston Classic to Baylor, missing five of their last six free throws (and 15-of-19 on the day) and displaying plenty of iffy decisions in the final couple of minutes before eventually holding on for the good win. But that situation, and the fact that the team as a whole is shooting just 65.9% from the charity stripe on the year (good for 252nd in the nation) indicated that there would be problems in the future. With key figures like Andre Roberson and Xavier Johnson flirting with the 50% mark from the stripe, and with secondary ball-handler Askia Booker not much better at 64%, this doesn’t seem like a problem that is going to go away any time soon.

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Night Line: Cardiac Cats Continue To Find A Way

Posted by BHayes on January 4th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

March may still be well in the distance and conference play just beginning, but the Arizona Wildcats have already crafted a season’s worth of last-minute escapes. Early December saw Mark Lyons take over a game that was tied with seven minutes to play at Clemson. The Xavier transfer would provide more heroics a week later, as his runner with seven seconds left shocked Florida and erased a six-point, final-minute deficit. Then, in a back-and-forth Christmas Day affair, Nick Johnson delivered Wildcat fans a final Christmas gift when he blocked Chase Tapley’s layup attempt with only ticks remaining, giving Arizona the Diamond Head Classic title in yet another wild final minute.

But none of this drama compared to the scene at the McHale Center on Thursday night. Not only did Arizona need to erase a nine-point deficit in the final two minutes to ultimately win this one, but they also needed to find a bit of good fortune when referees went to the monitor to review Sabatino Chen’s apparent buzzer-beating winner. True to form, the Wildcats ended up on the right side of the bang-bang call, and then (in equally appropriate fashion), Lyons and company displayed the killer instinct that has become a trademark of this unbeaten run.

Mark Lyons Has Brought a Swagger To The Cats, And The Wins Have Followed

Mark Lyons Has Brought a Swagger To The Cats, And The Wins Have Followed

As is usually the case with teams using “imaginative” methods of winning, skeptics will point out that relying on late heroics is not a recipe for sustainability. On the other side of the ledger, Wildcat fans will rightly point out that their team is 13-0 and one of just four unbeaten teams left in the country, so they have to be doing something right. The question then becomes, how good is this Arizona team? The answer, also per usual, falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Ultimately however, this is a talented, veteran Wildcat team, and the dramatic nature of their first 13 games should not be held against them.

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