Pac-12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 19th, 2013

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

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

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

UCLA Bruins

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

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

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

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

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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2013

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  1. After a stretch of several months where most of the news coming out of Westwood was of the bad variety, UCLA finally found some good news waiting for them on Tuesday when forward Wanaah Bail was granted eligibility to play immediately for the Bruins after transferring out of the Texas Tech program. While Bail is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, if and when he is healthy enough to go, he’ll be expected to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt behind the senior Wear twins and sophomore center Tony Parker. Still, despite the good news, some Bruin followers have chosen to paint this as, somehow, another strike against new head coach Steve Alford before the guy has even gotten to the plate. Seriously though, Alford had the temerity to answer a question about comparing John Wooden to his former college head coach, Bobby Knight. I mean, get a rope, right?
  2. Turning back to UCLA’s biggest rival in the conference, Arizona is considered the prohibitive favorite by most prognosticators, but the one weakness most people look to nitpick is the team’s possible lack of outside shooting. The team loses four of their top five three-point shooters from last season and their most ballyhooed newcomers, namely freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are known for just about anything on the basketball court except long-range shooting. Nevertheless, newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell is a 41.6% three-point shooter for his career, junior guard Nick Johnson improved to a 39.3% three-point shooter last season, and guys like sophomore Gabe York (despite his one-for-nine shooting in the Red-Blue game) and Kansas transfer Zach Peters are expected to chip in from range. Meanwhile, even sophomore Brandon Ashley has worked to expand his range out toward the three-point line.
  3. Speaking of T.J. McConnell, while anyone who never saw him play in his first two seasons of collegiate eligibility at Duquesne can look at the numbers and see a guy who can knock down the three as well as drop a dime (KenPom, paywall) with the best of them, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been talking up McConnell’s ability to get after it on defense. The Wildcats’ defensive efficiency has improved every season under Miller (again, KenPom, paywall), but if McConnell can live up to Miller’s hype, he’s definitely got a versatile enough frontcourt to match up with just about any opponent, what with Kaleb Tarczewski’s ability to out-physical true posts, Ashley’s length and athleticism advantage over  most fours, Gordon’s ability to guard any number of positions, and Jefferson’s toughness and length. Throw in the already established Nick Johnson, whose ability to annoy the heck out of opposing ball-handlers far away from the hoop can be disruptive enough on its own, and this Wildcat squad is a good bet to improve on the team’s defensive numbers from a year ago.
  4. For some reason, we haven’t talked a lot about Colorado so far these past couple of weeks (something we will remedy soon enough), but the Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams who can legitimately challenge Arizona for conference supremacy. Things will be a bit easier for the Buffs this season, especially around Boulder, as season tickets for the Coors Event Center have sold out for the first time in CU history. With a student section that has evolved into one of the best in the conference, and now the full Boulder community also committed to supporting the team, expect the Rocky Mountain swing to be one of the least welcoming road trips on the Pac-12 schedule.
  5. We’ll wrap up the morning by pointing you to a thorough rundown on the Washington basketball roster by Ben Knibbe (follow him now) at the UW Dawg Pound. Yesterday he took you through the high post players Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons (and offered the saddest of lines for a Husky fan: “Aaron Gordon would have been…”). Last week he broke down wings C.J. Wilcox, Hikeem Stewart, Darin Johnson and Mike Anderson. And the week before that he filled you in on point guard options Andrew Andrews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Certainly, we’ll get the breakdown on low posts Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp in the near future, but you’ll need to keep up with Ben (seriously, follow him now) in order to get the best position-by-position rundown you’ll find around the Pac-12 team blogs.
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