UCLA Needs to Answer Some Defensive Questions In Order to Meet Its Potential

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

When UCLA was dominating the then Pac-10 and reeling off three consecutive Final Four appearances under Ben Howland, it did so largely on the strength of defense. Not that the Bruins’ offense wasn’t strong as well, but for those three years, UCLA ranked in the top five nationally in defensive efficiency (according to KenPom). When the wheels first came off the bus under Howland beginning in 2009-10, the complete inability of UCLA to stop anyone was largely the culprit (although, really, that team was awful on both ends of the court). Since that year, while the team’s defense has certainly improved to respectable levels, they’ve never approached elite on that end of the court. Although, really, for that matter, they’ve not been elite on either end of the court.

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is  Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

This season? It still remains to be seen how this will all shake out as UCLA’s schedule ramps up soon, but at this early point it appears that the Bruins will be one of the better teams in the nation at putting the ball in the basket. They’ve got a bevy of shooters, plenty of athletes, a savvy play-maker in Kyle Anderson, and some serviceable big guys. Thus far, they’ve been ridiculously exciting — and efficient — on the offensive end, but for this team to challenge Arizona for a Pac-12 title, a solid defense needs to be a part of the equation.

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UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 68, Stanford 60

Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Pac-12 contest between UCLA and Stanford in Pauley Pavilion.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It’s Not Just Offense. While there were moments today when UCLA looked halfway decent on the offensive end for a couple minutes at a time, this was by no means an explosive scoring performance for a Bruins team that has come to be known for its offensive ability. It took more than 10 minutes for somebody in a white jersey without the name Wear on the back to score a bucket. Then there was a stretch of three minutes late where the Bruins turned it over seven times (after previously coughing it up just six times in the first 35 minutes). Follow that up with Jordan Adams missing three straight front-ends of one-and-one opportunities (this for a guy who made his 33 straight FTs earlier in the year and came into the game shooting almost 87%) and it looked like UCLA was doing their best to give this one away. But, when all was said and done, UCLA limited Stanford to just 0.85 points per possession and, on the weekend (albeit against admittedly pedestrian offenses from the Northern California pair) defended to the tune of just 0.89 PPP. As we mentioned Thursday night, this squad is never going to turn into Howland’s 2007 defensive juggernaut, but this team is improving on an almost game-by-game basis.

    With UCLA's Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

    With UCLA’s Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

  1. Stanford Rotation. Two nights ago, in a loss at USC, the five Stanford players who Johnny Dawkins brought off the bench actually played 51% of the team’s minutes, with Chasson Randle earning just 15 ineffective minutes and Dwight Powell getting just 23 foul-plagued minutes. That game actually marked the third straight game where Dawkins has used the same starting lineup, but this afternoon against UCLA, two of those guys were pulled for replacement. This has been an ongoing issue all year long as Dawkins has played 13 different guys this year (although Anthony Brown is out for the season now), with 12 guys having earned at least 20% of the team’s minutes and only two (Randle and Josh Huestis) earning better than 70% of the minutes. There have been six different starting lineups this year in just 15 games after he fielded 15 different starting lineups last season. Last year’s run to the NIT title was highlighted by fantastic performances by Randle and Bright, as the backcourt duo, who showed great chemistry together, averaged just shy of 60 minutes per game between them. This year, those guys have seen their minutes jerked around, and while admittedly neither has been great when in the game, Dawkins needs to give these guys some semblance of stability so that players can be more comfortable in their roles and build a rapport with their teammates. After the game on Thursday night, some of the UCLA players talked about how with a couple of player defections, the fact that they’re running a seven-man rotation has allowed everybody to get comfortable with their teammates, and roles and into a flow. Dawkins should take some notes. And, give him some credit as today he trimmed his rotation, playing just nine guys and giving all five of his starters at least 27 minutes. Concern about Bright, who earned just 14 minutes and was largely invisible in them (one three-pointer, one assist, one turnover) should persist. Read the rest of this entry »
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Breaking Down a Potential UCLA-Indiana Final in the Legends Classic

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 7th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Playing formidable competition in early season invitational tournaments is the best way to build a solid RPI foundation upon which to base the rest of your non-conference schedule. In recent years, as teams have adjusted to the notion that non-league scheduling does, in fact, have an appreciable affect on the bubble cut line come Selection Sunday, these tournaments have provided some intriguing matchups featuring national title contenders. The Legends Classic, one of the more anticipated tournaments in the early season college hoops calendar, released its bracket Monday. The 12-team field, on the whole, is a bit underwhelming, but tournament organizers did do us the favor of setting up a potentially epic finale on November 20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Indiana and UCLA, after staging two regional round games on their respective home courts, will need to win only one game against a power conference team before meeting in the tournament’s final game. If UCLA can sneak by Georgetown and Indiana takes care of business against Georgia, the two surefire preseason top-five outfits will put it all on the line for the Legends Classic crown.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

The Legends Classic bracket features two national championship contenders in Indiana and UCLA (Credit: Associated Press).

That’s must-see viewing for any college hoops fan, a tantalizing early season matchup of Final Four-worthy opponents. With more than three months remaining before the bracket kicks off, there’s plenty of time to salivate over this enticing showdown. But in these news-bereft late summer months, where Midnight Madness can’t come soon enough, I’m bringing you a way-too-early positional breakdown of what figures to be one of the best non-league fixtures in the upcoming season. To take this a step further, I’ll provide a prediction, score included, as a way of sparking the debate for which team is better positioned to make good on their considerable preseason hype. Remember, Georgetown or Georgia could knock off UCLA and/or Indiana in the semifinals and thus prevent the more favorable and altogether more entertaining finals matchup. But if the Hoosiers and Bruins are indeed what most preseason prognosticators are making them out to be, they should both advance to the championship round. Still, there’s no guarantee, so take this predictive exercise at face value.

Point guard: Yogi Ferrell/Jordan Hulls vs. Kyle Anderson/Larry Drew II

If Ferrell outplays hulls in preseason practice, Crean likely will insert him into the starting lineup in time for this highly-touted matchup. Ferrell is a true point guard who penetrates and finishes at the rim, but scoring won’t be his primary responsibility this season; facilitating the group of talented finishers around him—guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller—is the first order of business. Hulls has been around long enough to remember discernibly darker days in Bloomington, the pre-Kentucky upset era—faraway as it may seem—and can make up for his deficiencies on defense with experience, leadership and pinpoint three-point marksmanship. He may ultimately start alongside Ferrell at the two. Countering the Hoosiers’ duo is Anderson, one of the more intriguing skills-to-size prospects in the 2012 class. At 6’7″, Anderson poses a major athletic and size advantage over most every point guard, yet he also boasts the shrewd ball handling, court vision and mid-range touch to excel at the position. He functions efficiently on the low block, posting up defenders and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Drew II, a year after transferring from North Carolina, will challenge Anderson for the starting job. Both players should see significant floor time this season, and they could split minutes in this early nonleague tournament.

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UCLA: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 23rd, 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: UCLA.

What Went Wrong

Team chemistry. While Reeves Nelson is the fall guy for this, after displaying abominable behavior for two-plus years on this Bruin team before eventually being dismissed in early December, the problem went deeper than that. There was supposed senior leader and point guard Jerime Anderson getting busted for stealing a laptop in the offseason and earning a light two-game suspension as a result. There was center Joshua Smith showing up for his sophomore season in worse shape than his rotund, breathless freshman edition. And given that he was close friends with Nelson, it appeared at times that his buddy’s bad attitude rubbed off on him. Aside from behavioral issues, there was also a case of mismatched parts on this team, with a talented frontcourt supported by guards that were in a bit over their heads (despite the relative success that Anderson and backcourt-mate Lazeric Jones enjoyed). And there was head coach Ben Howland who had undoubtedly one of his poorest seasons on the sideline. He was unable to respond to the attitude issues with Nelson in a timely fashion, struggled to meld newcomers like the Wear twins in quickly and in the end, was widely questioned for his inability to find playing time for guys like freshman guard Norman Powell and sophomore center Anthony Stover.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Is In The Midst Of A Three-Year Downswing With UCLA (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

What Went Right

Still, after the Bruins got around to ditching their Nelson anchor, the team developed into a solid Pac-12 squad. After getting off to a terrible 2-5 start with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee mixed in with more reasonable defeats in Maui, the Bruins went 17-9 the rest of the way. Travis and David Wear, regarded as Charmin-soft early in the year, turned into the team’s top two leading rebounders and solid interior players. Smith showed some progress on the conditioning front and somehow Howland turned the combination of Jones and Anderson into a quite competent Pac-12 backcourt.

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Pac-12 Comings and Goings: Shabazz Muhammad and Josiah Turner

Posted by AMurawa on April 12th, 2012

It was a big day of comings and goings in the Pac-12 on Wednesday as the picture surrounding the two historic basketball powers in the conference crystallized a bit. UCLA and its embattled head coach Ben Howland got a piece of great news as the nation’s #2 recruit – Shabazz Muhammad – announced his intentions to attend the school next year, while Arizona finally cleared up the status of freshman point guard Josiah Turner when it was announced he would be transferring out of the program.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad Gives The Bruins Plenty Of Talent And Plenty Of Options

First, the Bruins. Despite UCLA’s struggles over the past three seasons (their 56-43 record since 2009-10 is the worst three-year record in program history since Wilbur Johns went 38-36 from 1945 to 1948 prior to the John Wooden era), Howland was able to add Muhammad to an already strong recruiting class that already featured the #5 recruit in the nation (according to ESPNU) – Kyle Anderson – and highly touted sharpshooter Jordan Adams. And, with the program still in hot pursuit of widebody Tony Parker, their haul could get even gaudier. Muhammad is an explosive offensive talent with the ability to throw down highlight-reel dunks with the best of them as well as knock down threes or score in a variety of ways in between. He will join a roster that features plenty of depth and versatility. Muhammad can play either the two or the three, and he is joined on the wings by returnees like Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell, a pair of nice pieces as well as Adams. Anderson as well can play the two or the three, but he is very adept with the ball in his hands and will play a part at the point, along with controversial North Carolina transfer Larry Drew Jr. And then up front, there are the Wear twins as well as big man Joshua Smith (although there is still a chance, somehow, that Smith could decide on his own or be encouraged to leave early), and perhaps Parker. In short, Howland has put together a ton of pieces in Westwood, but he’ll need to prove his ability to congeal those parts into a gestalt. Is Drew the answer at the point or can Anderson run the Bruin offense? Can Howland open up the offense enough to take advantage of Muhammad’s vast skills in the open court? Can Smith lose half a hundred pounds and be effective for 25 minutes a night? Can the Wear twins develop their offensive games and their defensive toughness? And can Lamb or Powell be counted on to knock down threes when called upon, or will Adams jump ahead of them in the rotation? There are plenty of questions to be answered at UCLA, but one thing is for certain: it should be fun to see it all play out.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: MLK Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

  1. Being the optimists that we are here at RTC, we want to get the week started off on the right foot, so we’ll begin with the best win over the weekend, a dramatic road victory by Oregon over Arizona on Saturday afternoon. After the Ducks built up a 17-point lead early in the second half, they eased up on the gas just a bit and before you knew it, they were down in the final couple minutes. A big three by Garrett Sim stemmed the bleeding and put Oregon back up with under two minutes to play, but he later missed the front-end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats the ball for the final possession. Sim did his part to make up for his miss by blocking a shot from UA freshman Nick Johnson, and then two other shots by the Wildcats on the final possession came up empty and the Ducks escaped with a valuable road win. Oregon now has three road conference wins, the most in the Pac-12, and have put themselves in good position to stick around in the conference race with the Los Angeles schools visiting next week.
  2. Okay, enough of the sunshine and rainbows, on to the worst loss of the week: Oregon State dropping its fifth conference game in six tries, this time a road loss to Arizona State. It’s not all that long ago, some of us were talking about Oregon State as a possible contender for the conference title. Now, the Beavers have had some bad luck along the way, but Saturday’s loss at Tempe sealed their fate: It is now, almost officially, win the Pac-12 Tournament or dream of an NIT bid for Craig Robinson and company. The Sun Devils rode six three-pointers from sophomore Chanse Creekmur  to overcome the loss of junior wing Trent Lockett, who left midway through the second half with a severe ankle sprain. Herb Sendek was also able to get serious production out of Kyle Cain (16 points, eight rebounds) and Ruslan Pateev (ten points, five rebounds, three blocks) in Lockett’s absence. ASU again struggled with turnovers (they coughed it up 21 times), but were able to ride their own hot shooting (68.4% eFG) and the Beavers’ awful shooting (40.6% eFG and just four-of-21 from three) to their second conference win. While there is no official word from ASU, the loss of Lockett will likely leave the Devils with just eight scholarship players in uniform for their games with Colorado and Utah next week. Meanwhile, the Beavs are left to pick up the pieces while wondering what has gone so wrong in the first few weeks of conference play.
  3. Elsewhere this weekend, we had nothing but blowouts. Washington State actually had Washington on the run for about 28 minutes, leading by as much as 11 points. But then sophomore Terrence Ross got whistled for a charge on a 50/50 play, Lorenzo Romar got pissed and drew a technical, and the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run that turned into a 38-18 stretch for U-Dub to finish the game. Over that stretch, Ross had 16 of his 26 second half points (he scored 30 in the game) and grabbed four of his game high 14 rebounds as the Huskies pulled away. It certainly wasn’t the most balanced game for this Huskies (they shot 26 three-point attempts, and actually shot better from three than from two), but they destroyed the Cougars on the glass on both ends of the floor (55.3% offensive rebounding, 88.5% defensive rebounding) and earned an important win ahead of their chance at hosting league-leading California and Stanford next weekend. However, the Huskies will likely play both of those games without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game with a stress fracture in his left femur.
  4. While the Cougars at least gave their fans some cause for hope in their rivalry game, USC fans had no such luck, as they were blown out early and often by UCLA Sunday night. While the Bruins were anything but impressive, the Trojans were just dreadful, unable to shoot the ball, unable to rebound and certainly nowhere near the defensive presence they have been in earlier games. The fact that a UCLA team led by the tissue-soft Wear Twins and a foul-and-weight-limited Joshua Smith outrebounded the Trojans as substantially as they did (UCLA rebounded 50% of their own misses and 80.6% of USC’s) should keep Kevin O’Neill awake far longer than I will be tonight.
  5. Lastly, we’ll double up on the Bay Area schools, the two teams atop the conference standings through three weekends. Stanford scored a seriously impressive win on Saturday, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 27-point lead in the middle of the second half against Colorado before calling off the dogs. Stanford just did everything better than the Buffaloes and got a big spark for the second game in a row from sophomore forward Josh Huestis, who tied his career-high (set on Thursday night) with 13 points, adding four blocks. Meanwhile, California just took apart Utah in a game that was never in doubt. After Utah opened scoring with a Cedric Martin three, the Golden Bears scored 24 of the next 29 points in the game, took a 17-point lead into half and eventually won 81-45. Sophomore Justin Cobbs handed out a career-high 11 assists as the Bears combined for 24 assists in the game.
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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week Seven

Posted by AMurawa on December 27th, 2011

So, that’s it for non-conference play. While there are still a few non-conference yawners ahead in the schedule, for the most part this merry band of mediocre ballers get to beat up on each other for the next two-plus months. Given that since the last time we did this, Pac-12 teams combined to go just 9-5 against fairly mediocre competition, at least this will provide some of the top tier teams out west to string together a few wins. Hopefully, at least.

Team of the Week

UCLA – The Bruins won two games this week, and scored what was arguably the best win with an eight-point victory over a mediocre Richmond team. UCLA has now strung together five straight Ws (albeit over five straight teams who won’t help their resume much come March) since the dismissal of Reeves Nelson, and seem to be a team that is benefiting greatly from improved chemistry. Furthermore, their senior guard combination of Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson have picked up not only their production but the leadership roles that they need to claim, and have guided the UCLA ship into some clear waters prior to the rough stuff coming up from here on out. Jones has scored in double figures in seven straight games (shooting 50% eFG or better in all of them) and averaged four assists, while Anderson has been less prolific but just as steady and impactful. Meanwhile, guys like the Wear Twins and Joshua Smith have been effective up front, and youngsters Norman Powell and Tyler Lamb are displaying some of their ability, although perhaps not as consistently as Ben Howland would like. Nevertheless, the Bruins are at least headed in the right direction.

Lazeric Jones

Lazeric Jones' Efficient Offense, Senior Leadership And Consistent Effort Have Helped UCLA String Together Five Straighht Wins (photo credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images North America)

Player and Newcomer of the Week

Justin Cobbs, Soph, California – A transfer from Minnesota, Cobbs has stepped up big time in the past week. First on Monday as a depleted Bear team hosted a tough UC Santa Barbara team, Cobbs not only scored a career-high 25 points in the absence of senior leader Jorge Gutierrez, but he also took on a huge role in limiting Orlando Johnson to a season-low nine points on 4-of-13 shooting. Cobbs hit 10 of his 12 shots from the field, including all three of his threes, and was a focal point for the Bear offense. RTC correspondent Mike Lemaire was at the game and came away quite impressed with Cobbs’ performance. On Friday night, the Bears were less successful, getting blown out by UNLV in Vegas, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Cobbs, who again led the team in scoring with 20. If he can continue to give Mike Montgomery an additional backcourt threat, the Golden Bears can challenge for a Pac-12 title in a down season, but they’ve got plenty of work still to do.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011

  1. Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
  2. The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
  3. This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
  4. You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
  5. Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.
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The Pac-12 Buzz About Shabazz Muhammad

Posted by AMurawa on November 1st, 2011

We talked yesterday about Arizona landing a real big fish when center Kaleb Tarczewski announced his commitment to Sean Miller and the Wildcats. But there is still one other huge target out there with a number of Pac-12 schools among the favorites. Shabazz Muhammad, a 6’6” small forward from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, is the consensus #1 recruit in the 2012 class. A left-handed scorer from the wing, capable both in the mid-range game and attacking the basket, Muhammad has attracted attention from coaches from all over the country, and has been playing the field so far, keeping his options wide open. Earlier in the year, he had listed nine schools among those still in contention for his services, with three Pac-12 schools ostensibly on the radar: Arizona, UCLA and USC.

Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad Has The College Basketball World Buzzing

Among many recruiting analysts, UCLA has been seen as a slight favorite (with Kentucky and Duke hot in pursuit), but Muhammad himself has played it close to the vest, refusing to name a favorite. UCLA has been encouraged by the fact that 2012 commitment Jordan Adams is friends with Muhammad and has been giving head coach Ben Howland a helping hand in encouraging his buddy to join him in Westwood. And when Kyle Anderson, another top five 2012 recruit, committed to UCLA in September, speculated was rampant that Anderson’s friendship with Muhammad may also sway the top recruit into becoming a Bruin. However, Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, a former USC basketball player who has not been shy about giving his opinion on his son’s recruitment, claimed that neither of those events would necessarily influence his son’s decision.

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Morning Five: 05.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 26th, 2010

  1. Vegas Watch aggregates seven pre-preseason top 25s, including yours truly’s.  Duke is a clear #1, but Michigan State at #2 and a lot of teams with serious question marks (K-State, Villanova, Pitt, Gonzaga) populate the rest of the top ten.  We had Butler (#8) and Georgetown (#10) in our top ten, but few others did.  Thanks for doing this, VW.
  2. More transfer news — a while back we suggested that the Wear Twins (David and Travis) would end up at UCLA, and that was confirmed yesterday with the announcement that the SoCal-raised pair will be heading to Westwood.  They’ll have three years of eligibility remaining, beginning in the 2011-12 season.  All we want to know is where was Stanford on this one (remember the Collins and Lopez twins)?  Meanwhile, UNC filled one of their open inside positions with Alabama transfer Justin Knox, who has already graduated and will be eligible to play next season for Roy Williams.  This is a substantial coup for UNC in that they were facing a season with few experienced bigs (only the rail-thin John Henson and Tyler Zeller return inside), and this addition will help bridge the gap until Williams can bring in some help.
  3. Finishing in the top four spots of the Big East regular season will not hold as much meaning as it did the last two years, as conference officials yesterday voted to do away with the double-bye system in the Big East Tournament.  In the new format, MSG’s Tuesday and Wednesday sessions will feature first round games using a traditional 1/16, 2/15, etc., format.  For some reason, we’re less excited about this change.
  4. Gregg Doyel thinks that Oklahoma basketball might deserve the death penalty, but taking his typically grumpy stance (we love it, btw), he doesn’t think that much of anything will come to pass.
  5. Duke’s national championship team has plans to visit the White House tomorrow.  No word on whether Coach K will give President Obama some beef over picking against his Devils in the regionals.
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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Recaps

Posted by zhayes9 on November 10th, 2009

atb

Welcome back to RTC’s THIRD season covering college basketball with one of our old standbys, the nightly After the Buzzer feature.   If you’re new here, the purpose of these nightly updates is to go a little deeper than game recaps.  We’ll talk about the key games and storylines of each night of the regular season so that you can join the watercooler crew with some knowledge to throw around the next morning.  Tonight we got the season underway with four opening round subregional games in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.  None of the four favorites were every seriously threatened, but there were quite a few good storylines tonight.

Isiah’s debut. #4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72. For a team picked last in their Sun Belt division and has just eight scholarship players on its roster, Isiah Thomas had his Florida International Golden Panthers putting up a respectable fight against the top-five Tar Heels in his much-anticipated coaching debut. The bright spots for the powder blues in the first post-Tyler Hansbrough era contest: Deon Thompson appears to be in for a fine year in the post, totaling 20 points and 10 boards on 7/11 FG while frontcourt mate Ed Davis used a slew of putbacks and easy buckets to complete his own double-double: 13/11/4 blks on 5/8 FG. The other big question mark heading into the season was whether Larry Drew could provide steady point guard play for UNC, and the sophomore put in a solid performance with 6/2 A:TO in 21 minutes, including a Lawson-esque coast-to-coast layup in the first half and a few pretty dishes to Thompson and John Henson for jams. The bad news: Even with the incredible turnover and rustiness of a season opener, Roy Williams cannot be pleased with a 26-turnover performance from his team against a Sun Belt foe (the most in any game coached by Williams at UNC), especially backup point guard Dexter Strickland’s five turnovers in 11 minutes. Also worth noting is Williams opting to go with a more experienced starting five with Thompson, Drew, Davis,  Marcus Ginyard and William Graves getting the nod and Henson, Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins coming off the pine. This group is absurdly deep up front and, due to the high-impact departures, shouldn’t be expected to look like a world-beater in early November.  They don’t.

Boeheim gets win #800. #25 Syracuse 75, Albany 43. Coming off their embarrassing defeat in an exhibition contest at the hands of D2 Le Moyne, Syracuse needed to come out in their first actual game of the 2009-10 season and make a statement. Their 2-3 zone defense confused the Albany Great Danes all night and was the primary factor in garnering a 75-43 victory for Jim Boeheim’s 800th win, putting him on an esteemed list with only two other active coaches — Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun. Syracuse’s defense and superb athleticism forced Albany into 32 turnovers and only 27% shooting in a primarily ugly game that lacked much flow. Syracuse shot just 2/17 from outside themselves including a clunker from three-point specialist Andy Rautins (0/6, 0/4 3pt) who left the game midway through the 2nd half with a sprained ankle (3am update: doesn’t sound too serious, but he was wearing a walking boot after the game). The good: Scoop Jardine coupled a productive preseason into another stellar performance at the point tonight, totaling 12 points and 4 assists on 5/7 shooting with just one turnover while his main competition, Brandon Triche, had some moments but mainly struggled with six turnovers. Syracuse looks extremely athletic with Wes Johnson (who features a sick one-handed posterization on an unsuspecting Great Dane) around the perimeter and Rick Jackson swatting shots down low.

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