Tag Archives: Arsalan Kazemi

Ominous Rim

Defending the Game’s Easiest Shot: Pac-12 Rim Defense

I have a ubiquitously discussed fascination with shots at the rim. I want to know how teams make them and how teams stop them.

A week ago, in the midst of fan euphoria with the Wildcats in the Bay, I went in on Stanford’s #TreeDunk. The silly video lauded the Cardinal as dunking all over Wildcats. I took to the numbers and found that they actually spend very little time at the rim and that’s fine.

What I neglected to address – and I had no qualms about it then – is rim defense. So this week I will.

Defenses are constructed in many ways with lots of different philosophies on how they’re going to keep you from scoring. We can look at UCLA for example. Here’s a team playing significant amounts of zone this season, packing into the lane to compensate for size and athleticism issues. They’re effectively defending by forcing teams to shoot threes. Against the Bruins, 42.3% of shots are from distance (that’s 7th most in the nation). Conversely, Sean Miller’s pack line defense is engineered to limit threes, allowing just 26.9% of shots from deep (23rd lowest in the nation).

But forget about three point defense. You can read about it here and learn a lot.

Defending the rim is interesting because it is so often associated with the blocked shot. It’s the big men blocking the shots and it’s the big men living in the paint. If such is our belief system, we’d be led to think that the Bachynski Devils are the best rim protecting team in the conference – if not nation! After all, the big Canadian leads everyone with 4.1 blocks per game and the Devils subsequently lead the conference in block percentage (a look at blocks per 2-point FG attempts). Here’s how that breaks down for the Pac:

Pac-12 Block PercentagesIndeed, with Bachynski swatting shots away, the Devils have the highest rate in the conference. Walking our way further down the list we find that the conference’s second leading shot blocker, Omar Oraby, anchors the eighth best shot blocking team (by percentage). But as these are both big men, we can examine things a little closer to the home of this discussion. The percentage of shots at the rim a given team is blocking:

Blocked at rim PercentPerhaps not-surprisingly, this chart demonstrates that some of the more front court adept teams do a better job of blocking shots at the rim. This makes sense as Washington is devoid a significant post presence whereas teams like ASU, OSU, and USC have some significant size down low (you realize Omar Oraby is 7’2″). This further suggests that perhaps Washington’s rim defense is not predicated on shot blocking (though to say anything of Washington’s defense this season is a leap). Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to shot blocking, but it can’t hurt.

Of course noting one stat of a single talent (Bachynski, Oraby) won’t tell us much about the whole. Neither does the lone stat. To note that ASU and Utah sit atop the conference in block percentages is really just to say…well…that they lead the conference in that stat. What if teams were making every other shot? You block a few but they make the rest? I suppose we could look at that too then, couldn’t we. An examination of each Pac-12 team’s defensive field goal percentage at the rim:

Pac-12 dFG% at the Rim Leading the way here is USC. The same team we previously saw sitting in eighth place in block percentage and third in block percentage at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado is in second with just the seventh best block percentage overall and at the rim. Next is Cal who ranked sixth in both block percentages and, in some regard, we’re starting to see an inverse relationship. I don’t believe this to be statistically relevant but I do think that this is an indicator that just because you’re blocking shots, doesn’t mean people aren’t making other attempts. Our presumed block leaders, ASU and Utah, are in the middle of the pack, yielding pretty average FG percentages.

Washington sits at the bottom of both lists and I’m willing to leave that discussion there. The interesting fact here is that Arizona – they of the nation’s top defense – allow teams to shoot a gaudy 65.6% at the rim (316th nationally). The average team shoots 60.9%. It would seem the Wildcats are amongst the worst rim defenders in the country.

NotSoFastBecause what if Arizona just didn’t let teams take shots at the rim? Thus far we’ve noted teams that dismiss shots around the rim (presumably) and teams that affect missing at the rim (dFG%), but what about limiting shot attempts? As we noted earlier re: three-point shooting, teams can be constructed to limit a certain shot. With regards to the close parameter shots, this might be a good strategy. Shall we gander at the teams limiting these chances? We shall:

Pac-12 % of shots at rim defenseHOLY PACK LINE DEFENSE the Wildcats don’t let anyone get near the iron! That percentage leads the nation and handily leads the conference. But with regards to whether or not they defend the rim well, can we simply anoint them the Sworn Brother’s of the Rim’s Watch? Probably, but I’m not entirely satisfied. What do we know about Stanford’s rim protection – the team I dogged for not taking shots at the rim and who led this article? They allow 32% of shots up close while the average team is taking 38.3%. Not too shabby while also ranking fourth in dFG% at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado ranks near the bottom of the twelve at 36.7% of shots at the rim, flirting with average. However, they nearly lead the conference in dFG% against. Are you seeing a pattern? I’m not.

So what I did was find the total number of field goal attempts each team has yielded and multiplied it by the team’s percentage of field goals at the rim. This led to the gross number of shots at the rim and was then multiplied by the field goal percentage at the rim. Those numbers crunched yields us the gross number of made field goals at the rim. And that was the number I wanted – or at least thought I wanted. If teams aren’t making shots at the rim, then you’re protecting it, right? This factors both affecting misses and limiting chances. Here’s what it looks like – I mean all of it:

Pac-12 Rim Defenses not final

Once again, however, not so fast my friend!  I have one final chart for us (and then I’ll show one more). The above offers gross data and if I’m being completely honest I think I just wanted you to see all of it. The factor we’re not accounting for is defense. Teams play at different paces, putting up more or less shots and subsequently their opponents doing similarly. USC, for example, appears to have the resume of a good rim defending team when looking at % shots allowed and dFG%. But they’re also the third fastest team in the conference behind UCLA and Oregon and are subsequently yielding 12 dunks or layups a night – third most in the conference. So let’s divide the above columns 2 and 3 to get our rim defense rankings:

Pac-12 Rim DefendersBy finding the ratio of rim makes to total field goal attempts on defense, I believe we’re looking at the defense as a collective. After all, the goal of a defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and the other team scores by taking shots. That’s what is represented in the denominator. The numerator in this case (field goals made at the rim) represents the number of easy buckets yielded. In short: As a fraction of total defense, how much are you giving up at the game’s easiest success point?

If you’re Washington, it means that one quarter of all shots taken against you are worth two points from very close to the rim. That’s not good. Conversely, Arizona allows just 12.07% of the shots against them to be successfully laid or dunked in. I wish I had national context to these numbers but I don’t have the bandwidth right now. If you want more, email me and we can talk.

In bringing things full circle, Jordan Bachynski is going to set both the school and conference blocked shot records. He is a factor in protecting the rim as are all great shot blockers. That’s an important and helpful asset to the game. But like everything else, there is no Bachynski in team. Its appears the defensive collective – if not strategy – can often protect the hallowed area. Of course with this information, we can further our understanding of a team’s defensive strategy which would take a team by team analysis. But that’s for another post so just know that Oregon severely misses Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods.

But one final chart. This time with no numbers, just color coordination so we can see how all of this adds up across the factors we examined and the mishmash of strategies used to protect (or otherwise) the rim:

Rim Defense Collective

NOTE: All data and stats for this piece were obtained from Kenpom.com, hoop-math.com, and basketball-reference.com.

wane

WANE: Mid-season Talks with Addicted to Quack’s Matt

This WANE marks the mid-way point of conference play. For fear we’d give the wheelbarrow of awards to Wildcats, Spencer and I brought on Matt from Addicted to Quack to make sure we curbed our homerism and showed some love the conference-wide. Which is actually really easy to do in a season like this with gross amounts of talent occupying the West. Draft Express projects four first rounders and a recent Bracketology projected seven Pac teams dancing (a number you can trust about as much as Frank Underwood – yeah it’s back! ). Also, in talking about how great the Pac’s talent levels are, we don’t once qualify it by noting that Jorge Gutierrez will not win POY. I’m maturing.

 

The Table:

0:00 – Dana Altman discusses the Super Bowl and STILL REFERS TO ARIZONA AS #1 IN THE COUNTRY (though it could’ve been record

2:33 – Matt uses adjectives to describe Oregon basketball.

3:18 – Could we have seen this coming from the Ducks? This 3-6 front half, that is.

4:30 – Front court vs. Back court. What’s the root of the defensive woes and Arsalan Kazemi is mentioned.

6:40 – Matt gets some one year overdue love!!

8:14 – On Ducks in the desert: Is two wins possible and Adam makes a demon chuckle. Matt thinks some additional ball pressure could help the Ducks, especially considering their depth.

9:33 – Jahii Carson tangent.

10:14 – ….and Spencer brings the conversation out of Tempe and back to Tucson.

12:52 – Adam plugs hoop-math and PacHoops and Addicted to Quack

14:15 – Gabe York’s role has increased, is he needed for defense or offense or…how much do you miss Brandon Ashley already?

15:41 – Aaron Gordon is 9-37 in his last three games.

16:05 – Adam stumbles through a question about Oregon’s rotation. Matt explains that Dana’s methodology is to let the cream rise to the top. It hasn’t and he’s still trying to find that rotation. There’s an SMH.

19:04 – March 5, 2011. The last time Arizona beat Oregon.

19:19 – Matt dives into what he thinks of Oregon’s chances to make a run into the tournament. Bubble talk.

21:27 – Transition into our MID-SEASON AWARDS TALK! We start with freshman of the year talk.

25:10 - We move in to Player of the Year talks and we discuss that award in a much more organized fashion.

30:50 – Matt asks for a guess. Adam gets it right! Jordan Adams leads the conference in steals. Boom. And then some Alford and UCLA love.

35:55 – How many teams dance and who and how they’re going to get there including an all too long of a conversation about Oregon State basketball. Yes, we discuss Oregon State for the majority of a segment about the NCAA tournament.

41:22 - Noting Bill Walton leads to a collective ripping on all towns and cities not associated with the Pac-12. Sorry we’re not sorry Big-12 country!

44:48 – Matt on Matt Knight. How is it?

46:26 – A big telling sigh from Matt that…”yeah, this WANE is probably over.”

47:18 – BUT WAIT! Matt and my bet of Aaron Gordon vs. Mike Moser

PGA: Farmers Insurance Open-Third Round

Getting to know Oregon: Not calling them TransferU

This team is completely different looking from last year’s sweet sixteen team. Which was completely different looking than the previous year’s NIT team. Which was completely different looking from the previous year’s CBI team. Dana Altman must have an advanced degree in change management because that’s all he’s done at Oregon. Most importantly, have you been noticing the Altman-era win column? Allow me: 21, 24, 28. The Altman-era conference finishes? Again, my pleasure: 7, 2, 2. On to 2013-14…

Why I love them: The guards. Artis quickly became a favorite of mine and clearly an integral piece to what the Ducks were trying to accomplish (5-4 without, 24-4 with). I also liked the guy – now a senior – that filled in during Artis’ absence, Johnathan Loyd. And I’m also very much loving this backcourt with Friday’s definitive addition of Houston transfer, Joseph Young. The team swapping junior brings his 124.1/22.7 (ORtg/%poss)…hold up, did I just tell you that Oregon adds the nation’s 26th highest ORtg to their roster? If that doesn’t meant anything to you I’ll synopsize: he’s good at scoring. And I’ll drop some similar ORtgs from last year: Kelly Olynyk, (123.3), Nate Wolters (123.5 – he’s the guy who dropped 53 in a game last year), and Victor Oladipo (122.8). His ORtg would’ve ranked second in the Pac only to Arizona’s Kevin Parrom who dialed in at a far lesser 17% usage rate. You loving this Oregon backcourt yet? I bet, AND I HAVEN’T EVEN MENTIONED DAMYEAN DOTSON. This guy might be my favorite back there. He arrived in Eugene, a late signee to an underwhelming 2012 class beyond the heralded Artis. Dotson swiftly dropped double figures in his first three collegiate games and never quite looked back. It was his efforts on the perimeter – hitting the three ball which Oregon struggled to do – that was integral in guiding Dana’s Ducks to a Pac-12 tournament championship and the sweet sixteen. Dotson hit 17 of his 47 total three pointers during the season’s final six games (P12 and NCAA tourneys). He showed up in the season’s biggest games and I LOVE THAT. Oh, and if it’s 2011-12 Mike Moser taking graduate coursework in Eugene…look out.

Why I hate them: I don’t know them and we tend to fear what we don’t know. Granted, I know my ex-girlfriend and I kind of hate her but I don’t really know anything about these Ducks. Their front court is completely rebuilt, do you know who Ben Carter is? Google his name and you get the website of a potter. As for the hoopster, I’ve been hearing buzz around his name but I’ll wait to see the honey. One Duck confidant called him “Arsalan Junior” which would suggest big things for the kid (see the QUOTABLE for more Carter love). There’s  Moser, he’s fantastic, but the same can’t necessarily be said about Waverly Austin. On the transfers-not-named-Moser front, Richard Amardi would seem to bring some heat. Again, unproven so we’ll see. As mentioned and highlighted, this is an overhauled front court missing Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods, and EJ Singler. I might even toss Carlos Emery onto that list. Point is: this team isn’t taking a whole new identity, they’re taking a whole new style. I think they’re talented enough to do it but it may take some growing pains.

Stat you need to know:

42

Three point shooting percentage of Joseph Young who is joining a team that shot just 33% from distance (202nd best in the country) last year. With open arms they welcome a shooter.

In their words: Matt writes for Addicted to Quack and he’s addicted to quack. He co-hosts the ATQ podcast and his favorite bird is a Duck. Has to be.

Coming off a Sweet Sixteen run, Dana Altman did this off season what Dana Altman does.  He reloaded with transfer players, 5th-year seniors and a couple of highly regarded prospects.  In the age of one-and-done players in college basketball, Altman isn’t afraid to utilize the same strategy, he just tends to make the 1 year the player’s 5th year in college basketball.  Add Mike Moser to the list of Arsalan Kazemi, Olu Ashaolu, Devoe Joseph, and Jay-R Strowbridge.  Moser is a huge addition to the front court for a unit that, while talented, is pretty young.

The strength of this team however is going to come in the back court.  Oregon is going to field one of the best back courts in the Pac 12, if not the country.  Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, and Pac 12 Tourney MVP Johnathan Loyd return for the Ducks.  Add to that 5th-year senior Jason Calliste (from Detroit 11.1 pts/gm) and transfer Joseph Young (from Houston 14.8 pts/gm) and Oregon has 5 sharp shooting scoring threats to throw at teams on a nightly basis.
All in all, don’t expect much different from the Ducks strategically.  With their talented back court and versatile front court, Oregon will continue to use the high post offense that keeps guys moving and gets guys open for shots.  On defense expect more pressure though.  With so much depth on the Ducks, Altman may be able to finally implement the full court pressure defense for 40 minutes that he’s always wanted to do.
Fans should be pretty excited coming off their first NCAA Tourney run in 5 years as the Ducks looked positioned for another chance to take the Pac 12 crown and make it back to March Madness.

Quotable:

“The frosh got some major burn early, then fell out of favor as the older Ducks took over during their Sweet 16 run. Carter is a former teammate of Shabazz Muhammad at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas and was very well coached in high school. With Mike Moser as a 4/3 hybrid in the “pinwheel” offense, Carter can play both 5 and 4.” – Doug Gottlieb on Ben Carter’s potential to breakout

Outlook:  It’s nice, real nice with the addition of Young. I’m fully sold on what Dana Altman is doing up there that I’m considering wearing pleats, a white button down with green tie, and impeccable hair for Halloween. Sure there’s some concern about the sustainability of this transfer model but let’s ignore that until we see something that doesn’t resemble year over year improvement, deal? Now I’m not about to tout them as a top-10 team a la Gottlieb, but I clearly like this team’s back court and I want to go to South Korea with them (11/8 vs. Georgetown).

LyonsArtis

Arizona and Oregon Still Dancing: Advance Factors

The last remaining Pac-12 squads in the NCAA tournament face steep challenges. For the Ducks, they’ve drawn the Dance’s number one overall seed and the toughest press this side of Gutenberg. In the West bracket, the Wildcats will face the Ohio State Buckeyes and their athletic set of wings and a scrappy point guard.

So how can these two squeak by? How can Oregon get to their first Elite Eight since 2007 (subsequently this is their first Sweet 16 since then, too)? What’s it going to take for Arizona to advance?

The advance factors:

The Obvious

  • Oregon – Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd are the team’s primary ball handlers. They man the ship for the nation’s 83rd most turnover prone team (21.5% TO%). That’s not good and as we mentioned, Louisville has a press which not coincidentally is at the root of the word “pressure.” They put heaps and loads of it on guards. And teams. The Cardinals are second in the country in defensive TO% (28%). You realize this means their opponent yields nearly 1/3 of their possessions to the Cardinals? That’s like having your team manager stand outside a restaurant bathroom and watch guard while you… well wait… it’s nothing like that. But the point is, Artis and Loyd are preparing for the toughest test of their season. This undersized tandem will have their hands and faces full of pressure. Dealing with it and taking care of the rock will go a long way in advancing the Ducks.
  • Arizona – As it’s been a season long dialogue, Mark Lyons is the obvious X-Factor for the Wildcats. I wrote about it for Point Guard U this week and now allow me to quote Chris Dufresne’s LA Times piece on the semi-PG:

    The truth is, Arizona will win this year’s NCAA title if senior guard Mark Lyons plays the way he played last weekend in Salt Lake City.

By that hyperbolic (though I love it) account, I think it’s fair to call Lyons an X-factor.   And just to recount, “last weekend in Salt Lake City” means 50points, 63% shooting, and just 4 turnovers.

The Subtles

  • Oregon - Maybe this one is obvious in that I’m about to make a total pun but subtly very important to the Ducks’ success will be their wings (see what we did there? so much giggling right now). And by wings I’m looking at Daymean Dotson and Carlos Emory. In his first big dance, Dotson has scored 40 points on 54% shooting and is 8-15 from deep. For a team that struggles to shoot the three, the emergence of a greater-than-50% shooter is nice, to put it subtly. And in his swan song, the senior Emory has gone ahead and become great energy off the bench and spent his upset minded first weekend dropping a combined 26 points and grabbing 13 boards. The Duck Wings (decidedly I’m hoping this catches on) combined for 66 points. Stay hot my friends.
  • Arizona – While we may have overwhelming memories of the cardinal and navy putting up gaudy offensive numbers, the core of the current team and current philosophy is tough defense. That tenant was lost for some portion of the season and then it reemerged in contagious fashion as Nick Johnson has reestablished himself as the defensive stopper Sean Miller lauded him to be. Thad Matta and others are taking note, too. It is yet to be determined what assignment Johnson will draw but the tone is set: Defense will win games for these Wildcats (unless you ask Dufresne, above). The Buckeyes pose no mega, collective threat offensively as the core of their success lies on the defensive end, too. Can Johnson be the more disruptive force?

Under the Radars

  • Oregon – These Ducks are pretty damn big. With a starting front court of Woods and Kazemi they’ve managed to be one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. And after those two they trot out the likes of Waverly Austin (6’11″) and Ben Carter (6’8″). It’s been this rebounding edge that I believe has allowed the Ducks to overcome their proclivity for turnovers. DYK the Ducks are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation (36% OR%)? DYK the Cardinals are one of the not so good defensive rebounding teams in the nation (yield a 33% OR%)? Now, I should note that the Cardinals manage to rebound the hell out of the offensive end (38.5%), a byproduct of their full court pressure. But this advantage could be negated by Oregon’s size and rebounding. The rebounding battle (looking at you Iranian Mound of Rebound) should prove central.
  • Arizona – The crop of freshmen have been lauded since forever. As the names said “yes” to Sean Miller last summer the fable grew. And then the season began and they were….freshmen. They’re the only top-10 recruits still playing which is a moderately fun fact but what they provide is something Ohio State just may not be able to handle: size. These kids are huge which the Buckeyes are not. Now size itself is not the answer (too many jokes to be made here) but just as Dotson/Emory have caught fire in the Dance, so too have these pups. Excluding Jerrett from Saturday’s win over Harvard in which he played just one minute after injuring his now completely healthy elbow, this triumvirate (and one game tandem) has put up a combined for 35 points, 36 boards; or 7/7.2 in just 21.4 minutes. They’ve been the difference makers on the glass and in the lane and will need to continue to do so against the undersized and less-than-stellar rebounding Bucks.

Survive.

And advance.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at California

3-0

I don’t know if the title of this post will hold but it certainly was nice for an evening, wasn’t it? And I should be clear, I’m not all that big on doing things for the haters. They gonna hate. No, I like the idea of winning for those who support us.

Because we watched this conference season long and sure, we saw their lows. But we also saw the highs. We saw that those Berkeley guards were assassins and that the Arizona freshmen were ginormous and that the Ducks could defend. Day one’s results aren’t indicative of anything colossally important. It was three good teams playing three good games. It just happened to be on the biggest stage. I’m into that but not smearing it in (too many) faces because, well, there’s too much still to accomplish.

For now…feels good.

Oregon - The question I kept asking was whether or not Oklahoma State or Oregon was more upset about the Ducks’ twelve seed. Now, writing this late Thursday night, my assumption that the Cowboys were pissed to face the Pac-12 tourney champs was confirmed. Because they lost. Oregon leaned on the efforts of Arsalan Kazemi (11/17) to move their way past the aptly seeded Cowboys. Oregon reminded us that they’re a defensively oriented squad; limiting the Cowboys to just 40% shooting and 4 offensive rebounds. The point, however, is that the Ducks were the assertive group. The statistical breakdown doesn’t exactly suggest a dominant victory, but it was. A sign that the Ducks were the aggressor and unafraid of the tournament.

California - It’s not very often that a team garners an out-of-conference rematch. Cal got their re-shot at the UNLV Rebels and won. Boom. Limiting the Rebs to zero buckets across an eleven minute stretch in the second half. That, my friends, is what I’d call a great success. The Bears applied the age-old belief that guards dominate this month as Crabbe and Cobbs combined for half of Cal’s points (32 of 64). This, whether it’s sustainable or not, is how the Bears do it. The Mountain West sustained their second loss of the night (see ya’ MWC champs) and may have demonstrated their general propensity for clutch losing. Have I gone too far?

Arizona – Can you call a 6-over-11 game an upset? It seemed the case as everyone considered Belmont ready to win their first tournament game. They had the outcome (first tourney win) and court (SLC) correct. Just the wrong team. Harvard upset Steve Alford following Arizona’s dominant performance for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory. Back to Bruins and Cats. Belmont managed to get the game within three late in the first half but never made it spicy again. Which is no knock on the Bruins. Arizona was the better team heading in (6v11, duh) and then went ahead and asserted themselves as such. Which hasn’t been the general case for this group. They’ve lost seven games to Pac-12 opponents which is not necessarily a bad thing but it ain’t all that impressive. However, considering Arizona’s issues against Pac-12 opposition, context might help. The Bruins rated 53rd per KenPom. That would place them sixth in the P12. Is Arizona figuring it all out?

BestMustache

Not So Pac-12 Awards: Best Mustache

The mustache has long been a staple of creepiness manliness and a demonstrated propensity for greatness. To adorn such facial design is to exude elements of blind confidence and favorable swag. A brief of hair so poignant it has been reserved to hipsterdom royalty.

Yes, the mustache is a grand aesthetic and but a handful of greats can rock such a coiffure.

The candidates for best mustache:

Spencer “The Mayor” Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado

SpencerDinwiddieStache

This oversized (for the best) point guard wears an undersized (for the best) mustache. It is subtle in appearance only; for its stature is far greater than The Mayor’s nineteen years. By PacHoops voting he wore it en route to POY and is arguably the conference’s top PG prospect. Alas, it’s for his mustache that he owes this candidacy as well as the swag by which he owns the look.

Arsalan Kazemi, PF, Oregon

KazemiMustache

For but a single night, the Iranian-born Duck adorned one of the best handlebar ‘staches I’ve ever seen. It was the night Oregon lost to Cal on the Cobbs buzzer beater. Following the loss – and understandably so – the look was retired. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t epic. Like a dress at the Oscar’s, the Kazemi ‘stache sends waves far greater than one night. Damn, it was impressive.

Adam Butler, Blogger, UCSD

ButlerStache

Sup?

Not So Pac-12 Awards: Best Mustache

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dPOY

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year: A VOTE!

The Pac has definitely taken a turn for the defensive considering the days past. In 2001-02, the Pac-10 had seven of it’s teams scoring more than 73.1ppg. Today that number is just two, and they barely eclipse that mark.

So yeah, it’s a big deal to be named the Pac-12 dPOY in a day and age when defense is becoming central to the changing western style.

The candidates (and there are some good ones):

Andre Roberson, PF, Colorado

RobersonBoards

Here’s a dude I recently saw Seth Davis call the most underrated in the nation. I’m not exactly sure if this is a good distinction or not and Isn’t calling him underrated sorta like rating him? Alas, his play stands for itself. We’ve watched this dude defend the spectrum of sizes and shapes and he’s taken all comers. His length is something to behold. Many still feel he was a major snub from last year’s dPOY during the Jorge farewell tour, further adding to the underrated dialogue. Whatever you want to call it, this guy can lock down.

  • 11.5 rpg (1st in nation), 2.3 spg (25th in nation), 1.4 bpg
  • 27.7 DR% (4th in nation)
  • 4.1 Steal% (41st in nation)
  • 4.4 Block%

Arsalan Kazemi, PF, Oregon

KazemiDPOY

From the moment I saw Kazemi take the court, I was impressed with his rebound timing. I watched him elevate as others were being sucked down by gravity along with the ball. But the Iranian-born kid was going up, a position of strength, to capture that ball. To secure it. And he did. Like really well, amongst many other things. As the argument was made for him is POY, Kazemi has done a bit of it all and well.

  • 9.9 rpg (18th in nation), 2.2 spg (28th in nation)
  • 29.2 DR% (1st in nation)
  • 4.4 Steal% (29th in nation)
  • 2.2 Block% 

Josh Huestis, PF, Stanford

HuestisDPOY

Look, this is a two man race, but I wanted to be sure to include the athletic guy with a fro because he’s pretty darned good, too.

  • 9.3 rpg, 2bpg
  • 21.5 DR%
  • 6.0 Block%

The Field

DinFelJohn

Nick Johnson, Carrick Felix, Spencer Dinwiddie

 

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

  • Andre Roberson (84%, 38 Votes)
  • The Field (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Josh Huestis (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 45

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POYTrophy

Pac-12 Player of the Year: A VOTE!

Criteria for such an award are oft debated: Is it the best player? The most valuable player? The most impactful? What’s the breakdown of numbers vs. intangibles vs. wins? In the real world, the award is voted on by the coaches and sometimes they do things like award it to Jorge Gutierrez (career achievement?). Sean Miller recently said Larry Drew II would be his pick for POY. Against Arizona, Drew2 is averaging 11 points and 9 assists and is a convincing 2-0. Against everyone else it’s 7/7. So there’s that.

Whatever the case, it often boils down to a gut check; a conglomerate of components that make up a POY ripe for discussion, criticism, and debate.

To help you in determining the winner, I’ve pieced together my ideas of the top candidates with some of their numbers and of course left you a write in vote. Of note, the “Big Game Numbers (BGN)” are the players ppg/rpg/apg against the conference’s top four teams (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Cal).

Alas, without further ado and without prefacing much by way of candidate qualifications, the Candidates:

Allen Crabbe, G, California

AllenCrabbePOY

[Note: Open Crabbe snipped with shoving joke]. OK, that’s out of the way so we can get to his ears? Double joke fail? Crabbe has filled the tin with the best of them and been Monty’s rock all season long. He’s the safest pick amongst the field as he’s been the best player on a top team. His performance in Tucson (31/7/5 on 12-15 shooting) was likely the best game of the year.

  • 18.5 ppg , 6rpg, 2.6 apg
  • 109.6 ORtg (11) , 25.2% possessions used
  • 22.8 PER
  • 5.3 win shares
  • BGN: 18.6/4.3/2.6 (4-1)

Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State

JahiiCarsonPOY

Please advice that the following is all nice things about Jahii Carson, alert his mother. ASU waited a long time (year plus) for this kid and he proved worth the wait. The native Phoenician has been a program changer (10 wins in 2011-12, 20 wins in 2012-13) in leading the Devils onto the NCAA bubble conversation (at least for more than a hot second). I have big respect for the effect he’s had on this program, but winning has got to count for something (a lower half finish ain’t great).

  • 17.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5 apg
  • 102.0 ORtg, 28.6% possessions used
  • 19.0 PER
  • 3.5 win shares
  • BGN: 17.6/4.2/4.3 (2-3)

Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

ShabazzMuhammadPOY

Up in the air whether this guy would ever play in Westwood, he finally debuted in Brooklyn – adjacent the home of NBA headquarters; perhaps telling of the Gucci wearing small forward’s intentions. Alas, once both the hype and Shabazz settled, he proved one helluva basketball player. Similar to Crabbe, Bazz is susceptible to the mono-dimensional critique, yet another best-player-on-a-top team argument can be made for his candidacy.

  • 18.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
  • 108.9 ORtg, 28.1% possessions used
  • 23.0 PER
  • 3.1 win shares
  • BGN: 16/5.8/1 (3-2)

Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado

SpencerDinwiddiePOY

Big guards cause havoc and The Mayor is no different. And he rocks a swag ‘stache. He’s a dynamic force on the offensive end, commanding the floor and getting in the lane at will, while defensively he’s capable of locking down smaller guards – which is generally most of them. And he rocks a swag ‘stache. The Buffs haven’t had quite the conference season they expected but they should be dancing in March and Dinwiddie is a major part of that. And he rocks a swag ‘stache.

  • 15.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
  • 115.9 ORtg, 23.8% possessions used
  • 22.9 PER
  • 4.8 win shares
  • BGN: 14.4/2.6/3.8 (2-3)

Arsalan Kazemi, PF, Oregon

ArsalanKazemiPOY

Like Muhammad, this guy’s eligibility was in question. Unlike the Bruin, however, Kazemi was never seen in a cutesy satchel (no more backpack jokes); just a dirty stache (no more ‘stache jokes). Kazemi joined the Ducks and quickly started doing a lot of everything for them. He undoubtedly embodies the concept of guy that does the dirty work but that’s just what the Ducks needed. And he’s done it well. The following won’t WOW you until you get to the efficiency stuff. Wow.

  • 9.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.3 apg
  • 121.2 ORtg, 16.3% possessions used
  • 25.3 PER
  • 5.1 win shares
  • BGN: 9.8/10.8/.8 (2-2)

Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona

SolomonHillPOY

In a surprisingly long lineage of point-forwards at Arizona, Hill has endured the strangest of times at Arizona. But he’s done so to blossom into a tremendous talent and one that’s deserving of mention in such a candidacy. The data isn’t about to overwhelm you, but watch a game or two and the talent just may.

  • 13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg
  • 112.9 ORtg, 21.6% possessions used
  • 20.2 PER
  • 4.3 win shares
  • BGN: 14.8/6/2.8 (0-4)

The Field

POYCandidates

Andre Roberson (11/12/2), CJ Wilcox (17/4/2), Carrick Felix (14/8/2), Roberto Nelson (18/3/2), Brock Motum (18/6/1)

Pac-12 Player of the Year

  • Spencer Dinwiddie (55%, 174 Votes)
  • Allen Crabbe (35%, 110 Votes)
  • Shabazz Muhammad (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (3%, 9 Votes)
  • The Field (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Solomon Hill (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Jahii Carson (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 318

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Thirteen things to watch in the Pac-12′s ’13

Conference play kicks off tonight and I’ve compiled thirteen things to behold in ’13. From individual games to storylines, this is shaping up to be one helluva season – one far more fruitful and talented than what transpired last season.

I’ve no doubt missed things. Or left things off (have I tossed in the USC towel?). So catch these and chime in with others.

The List:

  1. Colorado at Oregon, February 7 – These two squared off thrice a season ago with CU squeaking out two, one-point victories (including in the Pac-12 tournament). Both seem to be on similar trajectories under third year coaches and this would appear to be a budding rivalry. Prediction: These squads split, holding court at home, and both dance. Andre Roberson gets the better of the Arsalan Kazemi but Tony Woods takes the pup, Josh Scott, to task. The outside shot the Buffs have of sweeping this one? Askia Booker gets DGAF hot in Eugene.
  2. Arizona at ASU, January 19 – I don’t think this stands to be much of a game but Jahii Carson recently anointed himself top-PG in the Pac and Mark Lyons caught wind of it. There was evidently some twitter back and forth culminating in Carson citing that the fifth year senior should already be in The League. Unfortunately, I’ll be on an airplane for this one. At least I’ll have a seatbelt on. Prediction: Mark Lyons gets into the chest – defensively – and head of Carson and though the freshman manages 14 points, he also has six turnovers in the Sun Devils’ blowout loss. Arizona avenges last season’s late loss in Tempe and some Wildcat, I’m unsure who, will dunk on Jordan Bachynski. Hard.
  3. Cal at Stanford, January 19– Any time Monty returns it has to conjure up the old days for Cardinal fans; although in my last two trips to Maples almost no one has been there. I mean, there was literally a kid sitting fully spread out icing his ankle in the student section when I was there in 2011. But despite that history, Stanford knocked off the Bears in the season’s final game to keep them from a conference championship. Revenge will be on mind. Prediction: The Cardinal win this one and sweep the season series and there’s a sudden and growing displeasure surrounding the Montgomery-era in Berkeley.
  4. Arizona at UCLA, March 2 – Just look at those names. It’s a sexy matchup. Of late, however, it’s been anything but attractive as the two programs have experienced some mediocrity and turmoil. That narrative is exhausted. The new narrative, for at least a brief while, was that each program was back. We know that story, too. And now, as conference play begins, there are even more questions swirling about Westwood while people are still waiting to see just how good these Wildcats are. However you slice, this game will not be short of intrigue. Game Day and I will be in attendance. Prediction: My buddies and I have an absolute blast taking LA by storm and while the Bruins absolutely have the talent to whoop Arizona, the long road to March will have worn on the Bruins and their six-ish-man rotation (Tony Parker will transfer). At that point the Arizona baby bigs will have come into their own and, while not dominant, are able to put up numbers on the Family Wear. Cats pass their final test en route to the Dance and just might break the Bruins’ back in New Pauley. I’ll clap seven times to that.
  5. UCLA – This stuff is fascinating. I’m serious. We make up the storylines and then they manifest themselves in the most complex of ways. Shakespeare himself wouldn’t take Howland off the hot seat, toss him back on, and then beat Missouri. It’s impossible to contextualize this group of Bruins and grossly confusing. Sometimes they play defense (Ben!). Sometimes they run-and-gun (McCray!). I suppose this is a team with that version of wild-eyed crazy you want nothing to do with because they’re capable of beating anyone (Mizzou), losing to anyone (Cal Poly), and everything in between. Prediction: The Bruins will have a respectable year but what they’re really looking for full-scale respect. Something they’ve lost over the past few years and while the talented pieces they can roll out may frighten you, there isn’t the appropriate air about the program. Howland will be dismissed and UCLA strikes out on their attempts at some high profile hires and ultimately lands on a very good hire who maybe doesn’t WOW the LA media but will win basketball games.
  6. POY Race – I kinda think last year the Pac-12 ought to have forgone this award. They awarded it to Jorge as a career achievement prize and good on him but it overwhelmingly highlighted the league’s down year. This season, we’re already staring down the barrel of some really talented and intriguing players. Brock is putting up better numbers than a year ago and Jahii Carson is doing some impressive things in Tempe. Allen Crabbe is scoring points like it’s going out of style and I’m curious what happens if Shabazz keeps up his current pace as we suspect he might. Interestingly, three of the top teams are ridiculously balanced in Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona. Each squad features holistic attack not necessarily dominated by a single, POY-esque player. The Ducks have six players averaging nine-or-more points per game! That’s to say, none of these contenders will likely feature a POY but should taste great success. Prediction: The POY will hail from the 3-5 place finishing team. That’s to say I think Crabbe, Adams, Muhammad, and perhaps a surprising Cardinal makes a run at it. Brock gets shut out of the POY race once again because he doesn’t have the pieces around him to garner such an award and Jahii Carson learns the same tough lesson. When the dust of the conference season settles, we’ll find that Crabbe is the POY amongst many deserving candidates.
  7. You! – Go to an away game. Wear your colors in the middle of enemy territory and have drinks in the localest of bars you can find. Don’t – I repeat DO NOT – be an asshole. Embrace the fact that they don’t like you and you them, don’t make it personal, and root like hell for your team to win so your chest can waltz out of there the puffiest its ever been. The roadies I’ve traveled to have been some of my favorites: surprising my brother in Seattle last year just in time to see Gonzaga take AZ behind the woodshed; both trips to Pauley with my dad while I was in college in which the ‘Cats were demolished; the lap we did around Wells Fargo as Miller’s first team beat the Devils by 19; my brother’s first trip to visit in SF and the triple OT thriller in Haas two years ago. Grab some friends, a couple of nosebleed tickets and make it happen. Holler at me if the Bay Area happens to be your roadie of choice. I’m there. Do the same for the P12 Tourney in Vegas. Prediction: A weekend plan gets cancelled as a Friday is winding down at a Friday pace. You gchat your buddy who says fuggit and you both hop in the car and head to the Bay. You shout at me and we take the City by storm before attending whichever of the Saturday matchups you prefer (Berkeley by BART, Palo Alto by auto). The game’s a blast because both of those schools are going to present formidable competition and then we return to SF and run back Friday. Then we do the same for 4 nights in Vegas in March.
  8. The Unknown – Are you kidding me? Something mind-blowing is going to happen this season and it’s going to shift a significant chunk of thinking. Could it be the red hot Cardinal? What about their complete implosion? I propose the same for Robinson and his Beavers in Corvallis. Warming seats and hot hands and we’ll get to see all of it. Literally all of it. Larry promised! Prediction: One of ASU, OSU, and WSU will finish amongst the Top-6; someone you didn’t expect to get fired, does; one team wins a game on a 45-plus foot buzzer beater; and…forget this! I can’t predict the unpredictable beyond predicting that something unpredictable will occur and then we can revel in it together because this is sport and it’s precisely why we watch. Long live competition.
  9. Brock Motum – Watch him because no one else is. This guy is a one man wrecking crew and there’s really no secret about it beyond being lost in the Pacific Northwest. He’s one of the most used players in the nation (ninth and seventh in % of possessions and shots) and has maintained the level of efficiency he wowed us with last season. Things are rough coming out of Pullman but Brock is to be celebrated. And feared. Prediction: The Aussie leads his team to a respectable finish and a healthy run through Vegas. Nothing too fancy but the Cougs overachieve and he provides us with a wealth of knowledge we can drop on unsuspecting persons when we’re subtly one-upping them with our sports knowledge. 2019 Him: Yeah, Ian Thorpe is probably the greatest Australian…. 2019 You: Sure the Thorpedo was grand but Phelps took him to task. Do you realize that Brock Motum twice lead the Pac-12 – that’s some 156 scholarship athletes – in scoring and never won a POY award. Once he dropped 88-points on Kevin O’Neill’s Trojans and then taught them how to surf. And wrestle a shark. What a guy. Guaranteed that’s a conversation you’ll have.
  10. Toasty Chairs – I’m very rarely going to be one to call for a given firing, but I also feel I understand the nature of this college sports thing and the inertia surrounding a Head Coach. That said, in order to keep things moving at both LA schools, a change may be in order. Those appear to be the most volatile right now but the success of teams in Seattle, Pullman, Corvallis, Palo Alto, and Tempe should be paid attention to. A level of expectations hasn’t quite been met or a time frame not exactly fulfilled and things could be getting a touch spicy in those spots. I really do not foresee much by way of coaching hunts (goodness those are exhilarating if it’s not your program) but should that lead seat inside Pauley Pavilion become available, expect some big changes across the Pac. Prediction: Los Angeles finds itself coachless. UCLA will enter a hunt that has the college basketball world – particularly the Pac-12 – holding its breath. UCLA’s hiring, if done right, will no longer allow Pac teams to meddle around like winning is a 55% of the time thing. The following year, 2013-14, will open many more seats. Also, when USC relieves Kevin O’Neill of his duties, there’s a chance they make a splash hire that would dramatically turn heads.
  11. The Networks – Take advantage of this new resource to us. The games will be televised and that’s awesome; but to be frank, it’s 2013, and I expect to be able to see any game I want. I think the beautiful advantage the Pac-12 Networks allots us is the full-tilt, 360-degree coverage. From all things digital and comprehensive, we’re exposed to how modern media should be handled: online, offline, and everything in between. But read PacHoops, too, k? Prediction: DirectTV deal gets done over the summer as the Pac-12 pushes a softer bargain and DirectTV succumbs to the concept that they’re slowly becoming irrelevant in the modern era of ubiquitous and free media and the cable/satellite monopolies become increasingly aware of their dwindling state.
  12. Who’s Number 2? – The conference is Arizona’s to lose and after them there’s a smorgasbord of teams vying for that second spot. I find Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA in no particular order to be the favorites for this spot. I’ve previously stated that Stanford would be that team but they just haven’t impressed enough to garner my faith. At one point I kinda dug Cal – but they lost to Harvard at home! Anyhow, it’s going to be a wide-open race and as we mentioned in point #8, anything could happen. Prediction: Colorado. But I’ll elaborate to the point where I say four Pac teams dance (Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA) with a pretty good shot at five dancing, the fifth being Stanford. I really think they have the most intriguing pieces; the next step will just be some consistency. I think that could come with extended PT for Aaron Bright who had been returning from injury in the midst of the Cardinal’s OOC.
  13. The Old Guys – I’ve been pumping the seniors’ agenda since before the season began and, to date, few have let me down. Solomon Hill has been playing the complete game we came to expect and Carrick Felix has been nothing short of fantastic; while Jio Fontan has left plenty to be desired and EJ Singler has been good, not great. Larry Drew II has been a pleasant surprise in Westwood and there’s Brock. But now we’ve come to their final conference season. The part of the schedule where players cement legacies, become legendary, and embark on a home stretch of effort. Prediction: I already stated that Brock will guide the Cougars to exceed expectations. I think Solomon Hill stays his current course and EJ Singler will have a big conference year (at least bigger than his 10/5/3). Unfortunately Jio is who Jio. LDII’s numbers are nice but they aren’t going to make a difference for the Bruins if Shabazz and Anderson are going to struggle. Some senior is going to piece together a stretch run a la Carlon Brown, Kyle Fogg, or Devoe Joseph from last year. I love it.
Oregon

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Matt Court

The Oregon Ducks head into Dana Altman Year Three with some optimistic pieces. Perhaps the most intriguing of which is not yet on their team. (See item 5 after reading 1-4 and then read numbers 6 and 7).

  1. Uncle Phil – Duh.
  2. Goldie Locks – Look, he cut them off and I can’t get over that but I’ll have to. I also can’t get over the fact that a lot of this squads success lies squarely on the shoulders of EJ Singler. That’s probably a good thing. He’s a returning All-Conference performer and, traditionally, seniors are awesome.
  3. Woods – No, I’m not talking about the floor which is grossly distracting on a non-HD broadcast (see ya FSN). I want to ask: What if 6’11” Tony Woods figures it out? He’s got oodles of potential, maybe this is the year he breaks out?
  4. Football
  5. Fingers Crossed – Oh man does this squad want Arsalan Kazemi to be cleared by the NCAA. The dude was a 12/10 producer (that’s a double-double if you’re counting at home) and there were talks of a C-USA POY candidacy. He’s also the first Iranian born D-1 hooper. Nice little resume this guy’s built.
  6. Art Is – Yes, art is beautiful and so is Dominic Artis’ game. The freshman point has lead the Ducks in scoring in each of their exhibition games and will be looked upon to fill the voids of Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph (I loved Devoe). His emergence will be critical to Duck success.
  7. Au Revoir – Lotta transfers out of Eugene in Dana’s first two years. Now that’s to be expected – to an extent – with coaching turnover but now’s the time to start getting serious. For sustained success, Oregon is going to have to build around those who stick around and fill in with some talented newcomers (see: Artis, Dominic). Rebuilding year-in-year-out is too difficult at the major level.