There were stories written that Larry Krystkowiak had initially declined ESPN’s invitation to play Duke. He didn’t want to fly his team cross country with Christmas fast approaching. But he changed his mind, made a business trip out of it, and put the nation on high alert that there’s a new Coach K in town. Not really. But his team did beat the other K’s blue team and now a Merry Christmas to all.
As the year winds down, let’s take note of the Pac-12 kill list: Kentucky, Duke, UNLV, Gonzaga, Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M, Monmouth. The collective winning has been fantastic with two big opportunities remaining in 2015 (Virginia and Oklahoma, tonight). But you know this. You’re a Pac-12 basketball fan. Steve Harvey (for SEO purposes).
We could find, somewhere in the annals of the PacHoops blog, a list of the most frustrating plays in sports. It’s a running conversation piece that I have, centering around such disheartening acts as: four pitch walks, offensive rebounds, gutter balls, double faults, and missed extra points. Unequivocally, these things suck. But this year’s Arizona team – despite being ranked in the top ten – is introducing a new stat I hadn’t necessarily considered before. The Wildcats currently ranks second in the nation in non-steal turnovers. What’s that? Remember when your co-worker who doesn’t do jack shit and everyone hates because he’s a marvelous kiss ass got that spot bonus? That’s what a non-steal turnover feels like: someone you don’t like gets something they don’t deserve for doing nothing. So the Wildcats – in remarkably frustrating fashion – have the second most non steal turnovers in America, despite having the 27th fewest steals against them!!! Anyhow, they can only get better. Thus it’s worth noting that they connect on 78% of their shots at the rim (5th best nationally).
Prior to losing to Utah Saturday morning, the Duke Blue Devils – who won’t play their first true road game until January 2 – held a 28-8 record in Madison Square Garden under Coach K. The Blue Devils are now 28-9 at MSG (aka Cameron North). It was a mighty impressive win for the Utes – even if they tried their best to give it away at the end resulting in today’s header image. I’m bullish on these Utes, you guys. Poeltl is the real deal and there’s enough talent around him (Kuzma, Bonam, Loveridge against lesser opponents) to be that Top Tier Pac-12 team I think they can be. But they’re gonna need more out of Brandon Taylor. A lot more than 2-7 FG, 0 assists, and 5 turnovers against Duke.
I tried to send BFF Jared who lives just blocks from the Barclays Center to this game on special assignment. Unfortunately the ER doctor wasn’t able to attend. If he’d been in attendance, he’d have told me that Brice Johnson is really good and he’d probably have taken note of that Thomas Welsh mid-range jumper. It’s the hottest thing going. Unfortunately, Welsh had two fouls before the first media timeout and his minutes were limited for the rest of the night against a front court that was already too overwhelming for the Bruins.
You want to know about CU? Pay attention this week. They’ve got a Power 5 opponent in Penn State and then the winner of Kent State and SMU. The Buffs keep winning by continuing to outscore their opponents, a far cry from year’s past when the Buffs would limit their opponents’ ability to score. This is a very different look for #TadBall.
It’s beginning. Since returning from a foot injury, here’s what my pre-season Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Bell, has done:
- @Boise – 3pts, 7 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 17 min
- UC Irvine – 12 points, 2 boards, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals, 25 min
- LBSU – 10 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 27 min
- Alabama – 15 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 30 min
6. Arizona State
Love road wins and ASU picked up a nice one in Las Vegas with Savon Goodman on the bench. Furthermore, there are articles being written about Kodi Justice’s “swagger.” Read on.
Want to learn about this team? Tune into their trip to Virginia tonight at 6pm PST on ESPN. Here’s a few things to note:
- Virginia is the most efficient offense in the country
- Cal creates almost no turnovers (349th defensive TO% in the nation) and UVA nevers coughs it up (9th lowest TO%) –> That top rated offense will get to be as deliberate as it wants
- Cal ranks 284th in defensive 3FG%, UVA makes 40% of its attempts (26th)
- While Cal limits 3s taken (13th lowest % of shots against), UVA is going to have the opportunity to make what little threes they get.
- Cal ranks 3rd in defensive 2FG%, UVA ranks 24th in offensive 2FG%
- Immovable wall, unstoppable force? Hyperbole but this is one of those components of the game where Cal might have an advantage. The three is mathematically devastating but a few lucky misses and solid interior defense could help Cal (obviously).
- George Washington beat UVA by making the Hoos uncomfortable. They attacked the rim, shooting 53% inside the arc and taking 28 FTs. Nearly 1/2 GW’s shots came at the rim. It was also the highest tempo game UVA has played all year. Lesson: don’t let the pack-line get set.
- One time, Cal yielded 1.04ppp to SDSU who lost to Grand Canyon. At home.
- Third party results do not and should not define anyone. But the fact remains that Cal’s defense has been streaky at best and they’re facing the best offense in the land with little evidence of causing discomfort.
8. Oregon State
I’m a little disappointed to see the Beavers’ defensive efficiency where it’s at. They’re rated 58th which is the sixth highest Pac-12 team. I thought this was to be their bread and butter? Of course the Beavs have wildly improved their offensive numbers (96.6 –> 108.3) while shooting an unsustainable(?) 41.6% from distance. The Pac-12 has 4 teams in the top-50 of limiting three point attempts (Cal, CU, Arizona, UW) which could pose a problem for the Beavers when they play two of those schools in the first 3 weeks of conference play
I need – need – an excuse to jump them ahead to something like 5th which is where I think they ultimately belong. That said, if you’re a [insert any team rated ahead of the Trojans] I couldn’t justify that jump to you and thus they’re here, at ninth, because they’ve still only won 5 games against Pac-12 teams under Andy Enfield.
Tim Floyd still wakes up in El Paso and the Cougars swept a home week against obscure Texas schools in UTEP and Texas Southern. Of course the latter effort needed overtime but the Cougs prevailed nevertheless. Ultimately, not much to see here except for the fact that Josh Hawkinson is actually playing better than he did one season ago. He’s put up 4 straight double-doubles. Despite all of our Ernie Kent ripping – he seems to have built a little something that’s growing in Pullman. But don’t expect much against Oklahoma tonight.
As my team at my real job is working through some organizational changes, we’re rethinking a lot of our core “values,” the principles by which we work. Real talk, a lot of what I’m doing is #GrowthHacking and other new age marketing terms but the point is that we’ve adopted a principle of “fail fast.” We’re going to try, experiment, learn and iterate. The Washington Huskies seem to have adopted this similar principle. Go, go, go – and I know we’ve discussed this seemingly each week, but this week that “fail” portion of the equation seemed to ring true. They dropped a home game (ugly) to Oakland (of Michigan) that went 84 possessions and a combined 155 total shots taken. For context, the Virginia-Villanova game (final score: 86-75) had 99 total shots. By playing fast, the Huskies are gambling that they can connect on more shots than their opponent. This is a tough proposition, however, when playing an opponent that is adept at converting (like Oakland’s 22nd rated offense). For the sake of future contests, five top-50 offenses.
According to Steve Lavin (whom I love on the mic) in this article:
“They have to shoot the ball well. I think they’re capable of beating the upper-tier teams in the Pac-12, but they have to play nearly flawless basketball to do it.”
When your team needs to play flawlessly to beat not very good upper-tier teams it means your team isn’t very good.