Jan 2, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Pac-12 Conference Catchup:
This one is pretty simple, as Sean Miller’s Wildcats have the conference’s best resume to date and are ranked 3rd in the country. The debate as to whether or not Mark Lyons is a “true” point guard rages on, but the fact of the matter is that the senior is exactly what the Wildcats need from the position this season. Nick Johnson has been Arizona’s most consistent player this season and wings Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom have been factors as well. None of those three are “take charge” figures when it comes to scoring, meaning that the Wildcats need an attack-minded player like Lyons to run the show.
But there are two big questions for Arizona as they enter conference play: can they cut down on the turnovers, and will those three talented freshmen inside mature to the point where they can be consistent factors on both ends of the floor? Before tallying just eight turnovers in their win over San Diego State on Christmas night Arizona racked up at least 16 turnovers in three straight games, and there’s also that 27-turnover outing in their win over Southern Miss. If the turnovers are cut down and Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski continue to develop, Arizona can get to Atlanta.
Contenders: Colorado, Oregon and UCLA
The Wildcats are the clear favorites but that doesn’t mean there aren’t capable challengers. UCLA has the highly regarded freshmen, with Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad leading the way offensively. Senior Larry Drew II has been good at the point, but the Bruins are going to need to improve a great deal of the defensive end if they’re to win the Pac-12. Colorado has the league’s best rebounder in Andre Roberson and sophomores Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are very good guards. The key for the Buffaloes: the progression of freshman Josh Scott inside. And Oregon has an experienced front court (Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods) and talented freshmen Dominic Artis, Ben Carter and Damyean Dotson.
Biggest surprise: Washington State
Arizona State is an improved team thanks in large part to the addition of point guard Jahii Carson, but the Cougars being 9-4 heading into conference play is the biggest surprise. Why? Their lone point guard, Reggie Moore, was kicked off the team before the season began and left Ken Bone searching for answers. Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge are combining to average 5.4 assists per game, and sophomore DaVonte Lacy is talented enough to play both on and off the basketball. Brock Motum leads the way for the Cougars, and with the middle of the Pac-12 being what it is maybe Washington State can win enough games to return to postseason play (reached the CBI finals last season).
Biggest disappointment: USC
The talented transfers and returnees have yet to mesh, leaving the Trojans as the Pac-12′s only team below .500 (5-8). One issue for Kevin O’Neil’s team has been their play on the defensive end, as USC ranks 11th in the conference in field goal percentage defense and 12th in three-point percentage defense. And while their crosstown rivals have gotten away with their defensive issues USC hasn’t been as fortunate, due to the fact that they’re also having a hard time offensively (11th in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and 9th in three-point percentage). Eric Wise is leading the way with an average of 11.4 points per game, but he’s the lone Trojan in double figures. There is talent but is USC capable of turning things around? Not too sure right now.
Player of the Year: F Brock Motum (Washington State)
This one’s tough because the league’s best team (Arizona) has done it with balance as opposed to having one or two stars commanding games. That could open the door for a consistent veteran like Motum (or even a freshman like Muhammad) grabbing Player of the Year honors come season’s end. Averaging 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, Motum’s scored 14 points or more in each of Washington State’s games despite being the first line in every opponent’s scouting report. The Australian had a stretch of five straight games of 23 points or more beginning in late November, and given the Cougars’ scoring issues (DaVonte Lacy the only other player averaging double figures) Motum will need to continue to put up points.
Best freshman: Jahii Carson (Arizona State)
Jordan Adams has been outstanding for UCLA and there are other freshmen who have played well during the non-conference portion of the schedule (Shabazz Muhammad’s been on a roll of late), but Carson is the pick here. Why? Herb Sendek tossing the freshman point guard the keys to the car has turned Arizona State into a team that enters Pac-12 play with an 11-2 record. Carson’s averaging 17.7 points, 5.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, and with him running the show the Sun Devils have played at a tempo not seen at any point during the Sendek era in Tempe. His presence has led to improved play from the likes of Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski, which makes ASU a team more dangerous than anticipated during the preseason.
- Four teams will reach the NCAA tournament. To say the least the Pac-12 has been a disappointment over the last three seasons in this regard, as the conference has received a grand total of eight bids. With Arizona leading the way, look for the Pac-12 to have four teams in the field of 68. Could the conference earn five bids? Stanford’s “worst” loss was a home defeat at the hands of Belmont, so they may be better positioned than either Cal or Oregon State when it comes to the non-conference resume.
- Arizona at UCLA on March 2 will determine the regular season champion. When the Bruins had their issues early in the season (and no one knew when Shabazz Muhammad would be cleared) there were many, myself included, who predicted doom for Ben Howland’s team. Obviously their work on the defensive end has to improve, but UCLA will play well enough in conference play to ensure that this Saturday night affair means a great deal to both teams.
- Shabazz Muhammad will win Pac-12 Rookie of the Year. That Carson pick is made to reflect what happened throughout the non-conference slate. But come March it will be the Bishop Gorman product who wins the hardware. Over his last four games Muhammad is averaging 25.0 points per game and shooting 54.5% from the field. The rust is gone, and given UCLA’s need for more scoring given their issues on the defensive end of the floor, Muhammad’s going to have plenty of chances to put up points.
Power Rankings (* – NCAA tournament team)
1. Arizona *
2. Colorado *
3. Oregon *
7. Arizona State
8. Oregon State
10. Washington State
Dec 11, 2013, 12:37 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 19 Florida 67, No. 13 Kansas 61 Florida played the first month with many players sidelined for various reason. Chris Walker, the Gators hope, will be another piece they get back soon. On Tuesday night, Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill returned from injuries to team up in the back court. The…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Gonzaga had not led since 18:35 left in the first half, but with 4:10 remaining in the game, Kyle Dranginis found the trailing Kevin Pangos, who had struggled to this point, at the top of the key for a wide-open three on the secondary break. The sharpshooter drilled it, giving the Zags a 68-66 lead.…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:49 PM EST
No. 11 Kentucky entered Tuesday night’s matchup with Boise State coming off of a loss to Baylor at the Jerry Dome in Dallas, one in which the Wildcats were crushed on the offensive glass and cut up by the Bears in the pick and roll. It was concerning. What has made John Calipari’s youthful rosters…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:53 PM EST
I wrote this on Saturday after No. 13 Kansas lost to Colorado at the buzzer. The gist of it? Kansas fans should not be too disappointed about the loss, that the more important news was that Andrew Wiggins finally started to play like the Andrew Wiggins we all told you about. I could pretty much…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:30 PM EST
Florida entered the season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, however, it was with a depleted roster that included players ineligible, suspended or injured. The Gators lost a road game inside the Kohl Center to the currently unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers, which caused them to fall outside the top 10. Last Monday, Shabazz Napier drained…
NAIA allows Cameron Rodriguez to keep $20K after hitting half-court shot at Oklahoma City Thunder game
Dec 10, 2013, 8:55 PM EST
On November 18, Cameron Rodriguez hit a half-court shot during a break in the Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder game, with the award being $20,000 dollars. However there was a question if Rodriguez, a student-athlete on the Southwestern College basketball team, could accept the payment. Southwestern College is an NAIA program in Winfield, Kans. The NAIA…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Oklahoma sophomore guard Je’lon Hornbeak will not miss up to a month and a half with after a breaking a bone in his foot , the school announced on Tuesday. The 6-foot-4 Hornbeak suffered the injury during practice on Tuesday morning, and although the recovery does not require surgery, it will take up four to six…
Dec 10, 2013, 6:25 PM EST
The honors are continuing to roll in for Jerry Tarkanian, the former national champion coach who amassed more than 700 victories (more if you include junior colleges) in his 30-year coaching career at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State The latest recognition comes from the school he played his collegiate ball for (1954-1955) and…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:10 PM EST
Preseason prognostication is, more or less, a guessing game. The picks that the so-called experts — myself included — make are educated and generally well-researched, but they’re still guess. And oftentimes, those guesses end up wrong. Through a month of the season, who did we swing-and-miss on the most?: TEN MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYERS Luke Hancock,…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:08 PM EST
Willie Cauley-Stein has a strong case to be considered the most interesting player in college basketball this season. From his size and ability on the floor to his fashion sense off the court all the way to his fascination (and preparation) for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. During Friday night’s 67-62 loss to Baylor, the Kentucky…
Dec 10, 2013, 2:53 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 13 Kansas at No. 19 Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET I wonder how long it’s going to be before Bill Self regrets the schedule that he put together for this Kansas team? Three days ago, the Jayhawks were in Colorado, where they lost to the Buffaloes on a buzzer-beater by Askia…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
The inclement weather that made Sunday’s east coast NFL games so entertaining has been wreaking havoc with the travel schedules of a number of college hoops teams. Over the weekend, a handful of games were cancelled or postponed. Today, word came down that Fairfield would be postponing their trip to Belmont because the Stags are…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:25 PM EST
The 2013-2014 season is sure to be a thrilling Player of the Year race, so to keep track of it, we will be posting weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings for your reading goodness. Who’d we miss? Who’s ranked too high? We love to overlook your team’s best player and overrate your rival’s superstar.…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:50 AM EST
Since 2006 the phrase “one-and-done” has been a vital phrase off the tongues of college basketball fans as the NBA’s rule change forced players out of high school to wait at least one season — and likely play in college — before entering the NBA. Since then college basketball has seen numerous one-and-done players and…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:23 AM EST
UCLA picked up another commitment in the Class of 2014 as Jonah Bolden announced his intentions to be a Bruin in college. The news was first reported by Evan Daniels. Bolden is a 6-foot-8 small forward from Australia that is playing at Findlay Prep this season. He’s ranked No. 62 by Rivals. Here is how…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:35 AM EST
My favorite is Dan Shulman. “Dick, there’s an ‘L’ in my last name.” But the sleeper is Bruce Pearl. He may be the one guy that’s got as much energy as Vitale.
Dec 9, 2013, 9:45 PM EST
Bryant played in its first nationally televised game on the road Monday at Notre Dame on ESPNU, and they put up a fight against the Irish in a 70-59 loss. Although Notre Dame was 6-2 entering the game, Bryant showed confidence throughout the game as Notre Dame never seemed to do what they…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:00 PM EST
Boston College’s struggles this season have been well chronicled. The Golden Eagles got thumped last week on the road at Purdue and took another loss at the Galen Center to USC this weekend. Steve Donahue’s ballclub is 3-6 now and their defense in particular has struggled this season as they’ve played a pretty difficult nonconference…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:23 PM EST
Prior to the season, every pundit for every outlet across the country will put together his or her list of players with the potential to have a breakout season. Which freshmen will have big sophomore seasons? Which seniors will finally get the chance to step into a starring role? What transfers spent their redshirt year…
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