I was trying to lede this with an analogy about Ichabod Crane and Ken Bone, noting something about the former’s role in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But I can’t really find anything besides a beheading. Turns out, Ichabod was kind of a prick and Ken Bone’s a good dude. Best of luck on what seems to be a new power staff at Montana (of note, I’ve met two of these staffers in social settings). Enter the retread, Ernie Kent. No, no, no…too negative. Is this like dating your buddy’s ex? Anyhow, Ernie’s going to pick up the pace for the handful of talent he’s got. I’m still kinda left looking for the big picture, however.
I’ve been struggling to piece this one together. I think from the outset components of Ken Bone’s time at Washington State have been doomed. Tony Bennett is one of the few coaches who can compete with him in the cool name department (see QUOTABLE below) and who also set an unparallel-able bar in Pullman. Now to be clear, I’m not writing a fire and brimstone preview. I’m also not about to say “quite the contrary.” I’m just saying that there isn’t anything particularly interesting about this team. They’ve lost one of my favorite Pac-12 players of All-Time in Brock Motum. The Australian was my two time reigning Australian of the Year (which I’ve already awarded to Angus Brandt for this season) and he was really good at basketball. The saving grace of Cougar hoop. And now he’s gone to Italy and so too is long time assistant, Ben Johnson. They’ve lost him to Australia, too. Something about down undah.
Why I love them: It’s hard to love something you don’t know and there really isn’t a ton to know about this Cougar team. So I went to their Official Roster and that’s when I fell in love. For someone working in UX (user experience) and guiding different design teams to optimize a digital experience, I appreciate things like hover boxes that help with name pronunciation. You would think Apple Cup rivals, the Washington Huskies, would develop a stand alone page to help with the pronunciation of Giles Dierickx. The Cougars may not get a ton of love nationally or coastally, but god dammit you’re going to pronounce their names right. Additionally, I appreciate the back court of DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge. They’re veterans (JR and rJR, respectively) and have shouldered the point guard role in the excuse of Reggie Moore. They were due help in the arrival of Danny Lawhorn – a JuCo standout set to take over at the one – but HEGONE. I have heard good things about red-shirt freshman, [cue] Johnson, and Dexter [KER-nick]-Drew. So there’s that.
Why I hate them: BROCKMOTUM. How can you be a fan of this conference and be glad to see him leave? He was the consummate collegian and I loved his game. How glorious was it to see him go HAM in Vegas – 28 points in a loss to UW – during his final game (a friend of mine saw him going the other time of HAM on the Strip but that’s a different tale and please note that Aussies party harder than anyone else. Anyone.). Alas, their roster comes at us guard heavy and in a league that already touts Jahii Carson, CJ Wilcox, Justin Cobbs, Nick Johnson, Jordan Adams, Damyean Dotson, TJ McConnell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Chasson Randle, Jarbari Bird, Joseph Young, Nigel Williams-Goss, Jermaine Marshall, Aaron Bright, Dominic Artis…do you get my point?
Stat you need to know:
To be honest, I have no idea what this number means as a number by itself. With context however, this is the 345th worst luck in Division-1 basketball. It basically means that the Cougars were in a lot of ball games (projected to win, arguably) that they wound up losing. There were 10 games last season they lost by 5 or fewer points. Often a poor luck scoring can translate into an improved record the following year. The logic suggests that you lost a bunch of games you were projected to win one year (youth, tough bounces, monitors) and that you’ll get those bounces the following year. Ya know…get better. But I wouldn’t soon hang my hat on luck, Cougar fans, but it is something.
“I’m cheering for Washington State to win the Pac-12 this year only because I don’t want their coach to get fired. There aren’t enough good porn names in sports, so Ken Bone getting axed would be a huge loss.” – Mark Titus
Outlook: Bleak. There’s early hot seat talk and that’s never a good thing. There’s nothing returning in the front court and lots lost. DJ Shelton will man the middle. He did tout a 21.7 DR% which I suppose is encouraging. Addtionally, Ken Bone’s best teams play fast. Or at least swifter than the average bear. His last three seasons, however, Bone’s teams have been playing increasingly slower from his better teams. They’ve also been getting increasingly worse in the ORtg and DRtg department. In analytics we call this a downward trend. But how about that Titus quote, eh?
I’ll miss them. You will, too. And with the wrap of this season, reality has sunk in that some of our favorites will move on. Cue the Vitamin C, it’s graduation time.
And this crop of seniors saw some stuff. They endured but did not define one of the worst stretches in Pac-12 hoops there’s ever been. By way of historical context I have none. But anecdotally can you tell me I’m wrong? These seniors saw the winner of their conference not play in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 was bad.
But they won’t be defined by this period of ineptitude. They’ll be defined by the fight we saw and the resilience we cheered. As a slew of fantastic writers boasted of their favorite seniors’ careers (all below), I was reminded that we’re not always fans for the wins and losses. We’re drawn to the human components of this game, the universal truths that we all struggle in an effort to succeed. Which is why it was so rewarding to see EJ Singler in his first Big Dance. And Solomon Hill lead down the home stretch. And see Brock Motum score 79 points in his final three games. And see the career transformation of Larry Drew II. And Joe Burton play the role of cultural ambassador.
Maybe they didn’t win any titles and reached just a single Elite 8 collectively, but they were the seniors of our teams and sometimes that’s about all we need to be a fan.
The 2012-13 Pac-12 Seniors – or at least those who were so kindly discussed by those who follow them closest for the Waxing Seniority series:
I really don’t want to dive deep into a preview of this tournament. Or any post-season for that matter.
I could tell you that I really like Arizona’s talent or that Shabazz, Jahii, Askia, Crabbe/Cobbs, or Powell are terrifying in single elimination. We could touch on which Stanford team we think shows up in Vegas and whether or not my buddy Matt is right when he just says, “Dammitalltohell! Oregon State’s gonna win it!”
How healthy or unhealthy is Dre Roberson? Can Brock carry a big run? Will the Huskies play their way out? Is Oregon in a breakable slump? Why has “Judo Ken Bone” twice been Googled this week in arriving at PacHoops.com?
All things to ponder.
Right now I’m ecstatic that we’ll be treated to a rivalry game and a 5-12 matchup that features a twelfth seeded Oregon State Beavers squad that just beat the fifth seeded Buffaloes. And all the rest of it.
But come this time of year, I prefer the Billy Beane school of thinking. Have you seen or read Moneyball? The entire story centers upon the agonizing work Beane and his staff put in to creating the best possible baseball team they can on a limited budget. They are painstakingly trying to win. But when asked about the playoffs, what Beane’s approach to the most critical time of year is when legacies are cemented and legends born, Beane says, “My job is to get us to the playoffs. Everything after that is fucking luck.”
Well my job isn’t really to get anyone to the playoffs. It’s actually completely unrelated and if you’re ever interested email me and we can discuss it but I guarantee you it’s a complete tangent from college basketball or Moneyball or really anything remotely pertaining to a final score.
I spend the working months of the season trying to rationalize every piece of the year. I want to fathom just what effect Shabazz will have on his team or Arizona’s three bigs on their squad or whether Ahmad Starks really can spark the team defense Craig Robinson so glaringly lacks. I rationalize that some of these teams aren’t as good as expected and others are better. Basically I try my best to meld the summer’s recruiting gossip, the preseason’s practice hype, and then actual game play into some rational argument for whatever the hell is going on.
Similar to how Beane said it, all bets are off. This is tournament time and we’re in the midst of one game seasons. While “anything is possible” is an overplayed phrase this time of year…anything is possible.
It’s to this hope that we cling and there’s a reason for that hope, a rationalization of irrationality I suppose. No longer are we seeking the best over the course of 30-games. Because that’s when luck – as Beane puts it – can be diluted. Across 30-or-more-games, the cream is going to rise to the top. The aberrations and anomalies will be weeded out.
But now this is where we thrive, the fans. This may be Billy Beane’s nightmare but it’s a fan’s dream. It’s why we’re fans.
That finite peek at some semblance of hope that our team, on this night, on that court, might have a shot to make the shot and win a game they might otherwise have no business competing in.
At this point in the year we know every bar that can broadcast the Pac-12 Network. And the ones that don’t. We know the spot we can watch an FSN broadcast and we all have an opinion on Bill Walton. And we know our own team inside and out and that isn’t about to stop us from picking them to win this damn thing and Dance.
Somewhere across these great interwebs I will and have made some rational prognostications. But here, in this moment, know that my favorite part is the fucking luck.
With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
Jeff Nusser is a writer and editor at CougCenter. He’s a long time fan of the Cougars’ program and a tremendously knowledgeable basketball mind.
Brock Motum was one of those players who seemed to blow up onto the scene. After nominal freshman and sophomore campaigns, Motum entered his junior year with modest expectations. And then went on to have one of the most productive and efficient seasons we’ve had the pleasure of watching.
His senior year wasn’t quite at the same level as last year, but Motum had another very good year and will be remembered as one of the All-Time great Cougars.
It’s a shame he didn’t get more recognition for his talents as he was often overshadowed by WSU’s general mediocrity and inability to win significantly.
But that should not serve as a deterrent to celebrating Motum’s productive career and the joy it was to watch him play.
One of our favorite things about collegiate athletics is its fleeting immediacy. The players we cheer for, those who don our colors, are there for a predetermined and brief period. We enjoy their services for, at most, four seasons and then its on to their next venture. It’s quick, gone in what feels like a flash, and we’re then left with a new crop of talents to cheer, critique, and enjoy a new group.
But it’s this brevity that magnifies the relationship.
We know all too well of its finality that we’re further drawn to irrational levels of fandom. I love it. And now the seniors have now wrapped up their final home games. They will never play on their home court again. For this, I’m sad.
Because these are the guys we’ve followed since before they got to school and watched improve and watched succeed and watched fail and watched grow. They’ve embodied a lifecycle we appreciate and now is the time to usher them on and out.
For such, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite writers, bloggers, and fans in an effort to try and capture the feelings of this time of year. Both the bitter and the sweet.
So coming today and beyond, you will see the following seniors celebrated by those who’ve followed them close:
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
[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
5.3 win shares
BGN: 18.6/4.3/2.6 (4-1)
Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
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
3.5 win shares
BGN: 17.6/4.2/4.3 (2-3)
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
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
3.1 win shares
BGN: 16/5.8/1 (3-2)
Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado
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
4.8 win shares
BGN: 14.4/2.6/3.8 (2-3)
Arsalan Kazemi, PF, Oregon
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
5.1 win shares
BGN: 9.8/10.8/.8 (2-2)
Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona
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
4.3 win shares
BGN: 14.8/6/2.8 (0-4)
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)
We are entering awards season and while I’m not about to make too many picks, I do think Argo and Silver Linings Playbook will be announced frequently this coming Sunday.
But just as these films get some late sprucing as Oscar Sunday is approached, some late hoopla and for your consideration moments, so too do the candidates for Pac POY. As sports fans, we’re fully aware of moments and celebrate those who capture them. While Derrick Williams was walking away with the POY award, his depositing of Darnell Gant’s shot was a POY moment. I suppose for Jorge it was some charge he took.
But here we are at the homestretch, the final time to showcase one’s goods for award consideration and as I see it today, we have just a handful of POY contenders. The field:
Allen Crabbe: 20/6/3
Jahii Carson: 18/3/5
Spencer Dinwiddie: 15/3/3
Shabazz Muhammad: 19/5/1
C.J. Wilcox: 18/5/2
Other names could be dropped into that list but then we’re just building out an All-Conference team and we’re not here for that. We’re looking for the one and even this list feels long. But the Academy is now dropping ten films into consideration so I figure we can extend ours to five.
Now I haven’t the slightest clue what the voting criteria are. I don’t know if this is an award given to the best player or the most valuable one but as it were, looking back historically, it appears the award is given to the conference’s best player which tends to also be the most valuable. An easy overlap. Just rattling off the last few winners’ names you get that sense: Williams, Randle, Love, Harden, Afflalo, Roy. All very recognizable names.
Team success often plays a part which is why Brock Motum didn’t win last years award and the coaches decided to give Jorge a career achievement award.
But this year, as is clear by the above list of studs and their output, there’s a legitimate battle for the award. Interestingly, Arizona and Oregon have such balanced production that their best players have played their way out of POY contention (though I think they’ll be OK with a conference title or a nice March run in its stead).
Diving into that list, I’ll say that I really like Spencer Dinwiddie’s game. I think he’s a complete guard with tremendous size and a league future. I don’t think he’s going to win this award. That’s not to drop him from this list, he makes it in my mind as an MVP-type, but as POYs go, he’s not yet there. And while CJ Wilcox is one of the smoothest players in the league, 13ppg against the conference’s top three teams (AZ, Ore, UCLA) doesn’t exactly do it for me. One thing that definitely does it for NBA scouts is Shabazz’s mid-range game which is lethal considering his size and athleticism. But his game is relatively mono-faceted – scorer – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just would seem to eliminate him from the POY race. His team does sit near the top of the conference but their collective success seems to have them in that position.
And so we’re left at two: Carson and Crabbe.
The former is a super freshman. He’s the centerpiece of ASU’s transformation into possible dancers and has been equal parts fantastic and valuable. Crabbe too has been great and perhaps overlooked until recently as his team has catapulted back into the top half of the conference standings.
So facing what appears to be this two man race and returning to the aforementioned moments, who will capture theirs?
I think Allen Crabbe is going to have a big chance tonight as his red hot Bears travel to Eugene to take on the first place Oregon Ducks. A big game here and Crabbe maintains POY-mentum. And this is really his biggest opportunity for a statement game. It’s the last team the Golden Bears play ahead of them in the standings; though big games against Colorado and/or in The Big Game (3/6) could go a long way in securing the award.
Last night, Carson did nothing to hurt his chances of POY-dom with 21/4/5 against the lowly Cougars. He’s vying to become just the third freshman to ever win the award, joining the likes of Kevin Love and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Good company and his closing arguments could come in the form of big games on the road. A place the young man is learning to thrive. Remaining are contests at UCLA and at rival Arizona by which Carson could find his name etched onto the POY cup – or whatever it is they give the player.
But the overarching excitement here is that we are having a POY talk which means we’re remarkably close to what’s shaping up to be one of the maddest Marches in awhile.
As my buddy Jamie recently asked, “How do we get this sport year ’round?”
With Conference play tipping off tonight last night, the fellas at RTC and I compiled what I would call our Pre-Season-Post-Non-Conference-Schedule predictions. With a twelve-to-thirteen game sampling from each team and player, we made new-ish predictions on how the league is going to shape out. Here is the aggregation of our picks.
As for me, I don’t think I went particularly crazy here. I really think CU edges UCLA out of the second slot and I’m not buying ASU’s hot start. It’s worth noting here that I will forever be sad that Brock Motum won’t realistically win the POY award. Just a bummer cause he’s really good and fun to watch. I just might have a Foster’s in his honor.
Anyhow, here’s how I picked the league and some other All-This-That-and-the-Other Teams:
7. Oregon State
8. Arizona State
9. Washington State
PG Jahii Carson
G Allen Crabbe
F Shabazz Muhammad
F Solomon Hill
F Brock Motum
PG Jahii Carson
G Jordan Adams
F Shabazz Muhammad
F Jordan Loveridge
C Josh Scott
PG Dominic Artis
G Nick Johnson
F Josh Huestis
F Arsalan Kazemi
C Jordan Bachynski
Coach of the Year:
Player of the Year:
Freshman of the Year:
PG Dominic Artis
G Jordan Adams
F Josh Huestis
F Jonathan Gilling
C Jordan Bachynski
PG Jio Fontan
G Ahmad Starks
G Chasson Randle
F Aaron Fuller
C Josh Smith
G Nick Johnson
G Roberto Nelson
F Dwight Powell
F Carrick Felix
C Jordan Bachynski
All-Upside (most room for improvement into conference season):
PG Aaron Bright
G JT Terrell
F EJ Singler
F Brandon Ashley
F Tyrone Wallace
Game of the Year (to this point):
Florida at Arizona: the game was hyped as the biggest of the OOC schedule and lived up to the billing. McKale was rocking as if the ‘Cats were a top-10 tea— wait, they are. OK, so it appeared as if things were back to normal in Tucson until Arizona spent much of the game playing catch-up. With the final possession and the ball in their fearless, gamer’s hands, the Wildcats managed to knock off the Gators.
Game of the Year (in conference):
Arizona at UCLA – This should be the game of the year in the second to last weekend with Game Day in town and a whole lot of talent on the floor. I think it’s safe to assume Arizona will be a contender but no one seems to know what we’ll get out of UCLA. If recent history serves us well, this will indeed be a ball game.
Today is Thanksgiving, a day intrinsically if not by simple nomenclature, dedicated to the giving of thanks. Subsequently there is the annual onslaught of columns and lists proclaiming gratefulness for a slew life’s wonders.
At PacHoops, we’re not above that.
Because I’m thankful the season has begun and we get to see the coaches again. Their varied levels of animation while patrolling a sideline is amongst my favorite things to watch. From the progressive reddening of Kevin O’Neill’s face to Sean Miller’s cough and squat yelling to Dana Altman’s jacketless rants, I love it.
And I’m thankful, obviously, for the Pac-12 Network. While all of conference alignment is driven by the pigskin, the TV networks already aired the majority of football games. Now, we get all basketball games with relative ease. That’s hoops-on-hoops-on-hoops and so just as daylight saving’s brings my life into darkness, my evenings have been illuminated by Bay Area Comcast 823 (for HD) and 433/434 for less-than-impressive standard def. Seriously the 400s channels look like someone is streaming the stream from their iPhone. But, it is available and, yeah, I’m thankful.
Then there’s the players. I’ll start with the yougins because there’s been growing hype and now they’re playing and we’re discovering that perhaps Jordan Adams is a bigger talent than the rest of UCLA’s class, Arizona’s freshmen are indeed bigger than Jesse Perry, Josh Scott makes CU bigger than Roberson, and Jahii Carson is bigger than Sendek’s pace. I know it’s early but these pups have asserted themselves early, meeting the hype and perhaps surpassing the critical hype – that’s to say some fan bases have irrational hype. Example: I read one prediction that Arizona’s three freshmen bigs would average a combined 38/31. Not happening. But I’m thankful to see them and the others shoot for the moon.
And the seniors. Yeah, thankful for those guys as are the aforementioned freshmen. These guys are the load bearers, the ones who’ve been through the trenches, the morning weights, the late study halls, and the road trips to Pullman. They’re Pac-12 seniors – four underwhelming years out West – who know they’re role: To lead. Solomon Hill, Abdul Gaddy, Brock Motum, Scott Suggs, Carrick Felix, Jio Fontan, EJ Singler and others will be leaned upon to fulfill that role. Their teamates are thankful to have ‘em; I’m thankful to watch.
I’m thankful the NCAA got its act together. As are UCLA, Oregon, and USC who can now roll out Shabazz, Kazemi, and Oraby to supplement their already solid lineups. I’m thankful Allen Crabbe is embracing his role as best-player-in-the-Pac, Dwight Powell is making the strides we’d projected, and Colorado won the Charleston Classic.
Oh goodness there’s so much more. The road games I’ll attend, the buzzers that will be beaten, the stories that will unfold, and the fun we’re going to have.
Now go eat some turkey and pour on some extra gravy for me.