“We do not notice Josh as much, and that is an indication, again, that he’s got a supporting cast around him that can score and do some things.” This is what Ernie Kent had to say about his All-Conference, baby faced Power Forward regarding the surprise that was 2014-15 Josh Hawkinson. I don’t believe it – not necessarily about Hawkinson but about his supporting cast. First of all, Hawkinson was an integral piece of Cougar overachievement last season. The Cougs were the 19th luckiest team in the nation (per the KenPom stat) which is an indication that they grossly outperformed their expected results. This stat, however, isn’t wholly predictive. So what have they added around Josh? Meh. It’s a commendable first recruiting class (not great but not abysmal) along with another year of system familiarity and growth. Will Washington State be any good? Not really. But they have an opportunity to surprise once again which – depending on whether you’re a glass half full or empty person – is a decent place to be in year 2 with a new regime (even if it is Ernie Kent).
I knew this episode was going to be cut off. College basketball’s closing minutes aren’t just exhaustively long they’re post-game DVR destructive. I went 36-hours off the grid and was welcomed to technology with this fair warning:
@pachoopsab Another reason “the drive” should be on off nights, recording last 10 mins of the USC/WSU game, something I never wanted to do
— JG (@jgisland) March 1, 2015
Alas, I quickly understood. While The Drive is grand entertainment it’s also a propaganda agent. And if half the episode is going to feature a team coached by former friend of the Networks, Ernie Kent, why not put him on extended viewing? Forget behind-the-scenes, let’s just get WSU max screen time. Basically it seems that Kent muscled Oregon out of The Drive so that I now have 3 minutes and 36 seconds of Washington State Cougar road winning basketball on my DVR and 15-minutes behind the scenes of his program. Continue reading
With high spirits considering I knew the entire episode was recorded, I was delighted to see things open with Snoop saying, “We Bruins now.” How could this not be a great episode? I guess setting high expectations is a tough proposition for Colorado.
Alas, what I’d come to discover is that what I missed in mis-DVR’ing the final four minutes was just a power-reel through the most recent weekend of games. We less-than-enthusiastically got to re-live UCLAs sweep of the Ski schools and Askia’s 43. Meh. Continue reading
When the rains subsided and the sun peaked out again, it was SantaCon in my neck of the woods. For me that meant the bar seemed full of Arizona and Utah fans – red galore. That’s why I was there, at least. For everyone else it was… well in New York, this guy mixed parties. In other news, I’m all about the news right now. I crushed All the Presidents Men and The Newsroom series finale last night. The latter of which I might be spoiling in the next paragraph:
A few thoughts on Charlie Skinner’s funeral: 1) Inordinate number of mega babes , 2) His grandson is always in the garage to play standup bass by himself? 3) Was Neal’s return the most triumphant return of all time or ever? 4) Seriously Jim? That’s your first move in that role? 5) Charlie stood for a renaissance of decency. That’s what Sorkin said. I’ll miss that show.
12) Washington State
DaVonte Lacy is taking 67% of his shots from deep which seems like an exorbitant amount of three pointers. He’s shot 68 treys and made them at a 35% rate. Hoop-math unfortunately doesn’t do individual rankings but in my poking around, I built a hack-of-a-list of some of the most voluminous bombers around:
- Jonathan Gilling, ASU, 85% of shots from deep, 46 total treys shot
- Naz Long, Iowa State, 81%, 60
- Isaiah Zierden, Creighton, 80%, 66
- Tim Marshall, VMI, 72%, 98
- Hans Brase, Princeton, 67%, 68
With 5:24 remaining in their game against Army, the Trojans led 63-54 and had about a 95% chance of winning. They lost, yielding an unfathomable 31 points over those final five minutes plus overtime. Army shot 95.45% eFG% over those final 10 minutes.
10) Arizona State
9) Oregon State
Before this season started I’d considered having an OSU tracker, noting on a regular basis how close to the major conference cellar these guys were. Turns out, they’re not going to be that bad and they’re a pretty good defensive unit. They’re limiting teams to the twelfth lowest eFG% in the nation and just this week picked up their first non-conference, high major win since beating Purdue on November 12, 2012.
I had a few things to say about Colorado last week and I said them in the following places:
- All Buffs – Written prior to their home loss to Colorado State
- Rush the Court – Written following their home loss to Colorado State
How does one oversleep on the day of your first game in two weeks? Anthony Brown reportedly did exactly that Saturday morning which baffles me. Maybe he was exhausted from finals? Nevertheless, after sitting briefly he managed to score 17 points as the Cardinal had to comeback from an 8-point halftime deficit against Denver.
In conversating about the RTC Team of the Week, Andrew Murawa was trying to make the argument for Oregon as such. I ultimately talked him into picking Utah for the honor as I’m a sucker for road games. With that said, however, the Ducks did collect the best win (by KenPom rating) of the Pac-12 week. They knocked off KenPom’s #38 team, Illinois, in the less-than-triumphant return to the Pac-12 for Ahmad Starks. Also, for just the second time this season, Joseph Young did not lead the team in field goal attempts.
UCLA has almost no depth and it’s going to hurt them on occasion. You perhaps know my feelings on the overrated nature of depth, but the Bruins lack both depth and experience and that can often be a lethal combination. Four Bruins played 35-or-more minutes while the Bruins rank 333rd in % of bench minutes. UCLA didn’t lose to Gonzaga because they didn’t have enough players – Gonzaga is really good – but it didn’t help, either.
Wyoming is perhaps the most deliberate team in the country. They’re more contrived than a Newsroom monologue. So when they marched into Haas and exacted their style all over the Bears – a snail’s 55 possessions – it was impressive that Cal beat them at their own game. Cal is not one of the more offensively gifted teams in the conference so with the Cowboys trying to force Cal into long possessions and a slow pace, Ty Wallace asserted himself as the best player on the court (17 points, 8 boards, 5 assists).
Against what I’m told is a pretty good Eastern Washington team, the Huskies began raining threes late prompting this tweet:
Goss has Isaiah levels of clutch.
— Sean Kramer (@SKramerWrites) December 15, 2014
for this play:
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) December 15, 2014
Ya know, just some Delon Dunks:
I’m a little bit tired of the RichRod-Arizona-Michigan narrative but it seems to be a significant one. A recap of events from the McKale Center and Arizona’s most complete game of the season, an 80-53 drubbing of the Wolverines:
- RichRod in attendance
- Drops by locker room and wishes basketball team “good luck”
- Miller says he could tell there was a “twinkle in his eye”
- Football team is not introduced as South champs at halftime of Gonzaga game, Greg Byrne calls it #Strategy
- Entire football team is brought onto the court at halftime as South champs, Rodriguez addresses the crowd
And on this side of the break I hope you find yourselves thankful, that you had a better homecoming than Chasson Randle (like seriously, Stanford, you promise the kid two homecoming games and manage a 1-1 record and yield 1.19 per possession to DePaul who was wearing a home loss to Lehigh) and that your team won the Pac-12 South because – let me tell you – that’s fun. See you in Santa Clara.
Which of course means that football is winding down, heading into its long winter before reemerging at the turn of the year to give it their best, and first, shot at a March. Basketball will soon becomes our primary collegiate focus; when familiar foes travel to familiar venues and the grind. Eighteen conference games of unpredictability. Vegas. Selection Sunday. The weekends. A football stadium. Continue reading
Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.
Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]
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.
Why I Love Them:
So yes, I skipped a Week 1 preview to give us 14 Things To Watch including DaVonte Lacy who still isn’t playing and got drunk at 10:15am at a restaurant with just my brother and his girlfriend for the Ka’Deem Carey Bowl. Otherwise known as the Not-Dre-Williams-Doak-Winner-Fight-East-Coast-Bias Bowl. But I’m no longer beachfront. I’m just playing softball games in shorts while the rest of the country bundles up. So Week 2 gets previewed.
Game of the Week: This is easily Arizona’s visit to Pauley Pavilion to battle the Bruins. The Cats haven’t won there since we thought of Steve Alford as that guy who failed at Iowa, going 0-3 last season whether the ball was touched or not. And it’s that losing streak – not Rush-gate – plays a huge factor in this game. There are wildly intriguing statistical components to this game I could get in to (and will) but the narrative here, at least in the Arizona locker, is “We haven’t beaten these guys in a year and it hasn’t even been pretty.” That’s to say that home for the Whiteout, handled in Pauley, and the aforementioned ball touch game were difficult pills to swallow. At this point we can cite something about pissed off for greatness; or is that just an awesome video? And if you’re curious about those stats I’d mentioned, exercise some patience, please. I’ve got a whole ditty on that drafted that’s coming on game day. And one last thought here: I wish the game was on a Saturday so I could’ve gone. I just can’t get to Los Angeles on a Thursday at 6pm.
Game to Avoid: This is most certainly not the spiciest of weekends – no geographic rivalry, no top-25 matchup despite the above flirting with it. Thus, the weekend kind of lends itself to an uninteresting schedule. I can’t call the whole damn thing avoidable because that’s just absolutely not the case. But if you find yourself at a bar watching Indianapolis at New England instead of Cal at Oregon State – the only Saturday game – I certainly am not going to blame you.
Something to Prove: This thing’s early so ultimately everyone has something to prove, right? I suppose USC, WSU, and OSU have proven themselves as bottom of the barrel but it is indeed still early – even for them (hey! I’m glass half full guy). Pin pointing one team, however, I’m going to go with the suddenly upstart Utah Utes. They gave the Ducks all they could handle – including the game winning basket – and against Oregon State they took care of business (a characteristic of a good team). They made us all Krystkowiakers (are we going to make that a thing?). But now they hit the road. And while the 2013-14 trip to Washington won’t soon frighten anyone, it’s certainly not about to make anyone comfortable. No road trip will. And when you’re Utah and haven’t played too much outside of the Huntsman Center, well then you’ve got a great opportunity to prove something to us.
And in a shocking new twist: A SECOND SOMETHING TO PROVE! Washington State must prove they can score more than 7 points in four consecutive halves. Or at least more than two field goals (non-football reference).
Something to Lose: I’m afraid I’m going to be picking on these guys all the season long. They’ve already dropped a home tilt to a thinned out Cal team and now they have to play in Oregon? The Stanford Cardinal haven’t been doing themselves too many favors this year. Sure they beat #10 UConn on the road. That was indubitably impressive. Wanna know what’s not impressive? UConn’s 2-2 record since that game. From where I’m sitting (on my couch at 12:51am playing this sweet jam in clothes I worked out in 4 hours ago) the Cardinal will be 1-2 in conference play on Monday. Not the start they were looking forward to. And can you even imagine what a slip up Thursday night in Corvallis would look like?
The YouTuber: This is why someday I want a microphone and an audience.
Conference play will tip tonight. That’s a fun fact to let sink and now’s a good time to let your loved ones know that Thursdays and Saturdays are booked (and the occasional Wednesday. And the occasional Friday. And the occasional Sunday. And all of March). I love conference play because it means something. A “good win” doesn’t just carry a nice perception, it moves you up the ladder. And we know that college basketball is all about getting to the top of ladders. With scissors.
Fourteen things to watch in this 2014 Pac-12 season:
- The Games and Stories – An elementary opening point for a ‘must watch’ list, but as we head into this most anticipated of Pac-12 conference seasons, I am acutely aware that I don’t want to watch Southern University play a ton of games. I’m not that stoked on seeing Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Weber State, or Evergreen State (St. Katherine, for that matter). And I mean no offense. I just don’t know them from Adam and I want the drama. I don’t care if UW and WSU rate outside the top-100 on KenPom. That’s the damn Apple Cup. USC is the 4th worst team remaining on UCLA’s schedule. BUT THEY’RE THE ONLY SCHOOL YAPPING AT UCLA. Suddenly we’re privy to subtext that wasn’t there when the opponents were [Directional] State Tech. Arizona is the top team, but Spencer Dinwiddie has already said he thinks his team is the cream of the crop. I have running bets about Arizona V. Oregon and I love the Arizona-Washington rivalry. Last time Cal and Stanford faced off, STANFORD’S ENTIRE ASSISTANT COACHING STAFF WAS EJECTED. Prior to last season, there hadn’t been an in-conference matchup of ranked teams since 2011. This year we’ve already got one in the first week (#10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado)…with more to follow! It’s conference time.
- Ben Carter – He has just three games under his belt (flipping shoe swag) and really just one of consequence. In that game – against BYU – he managed 4 points, 4 boards, 3 assists. Not quite Arsalan Kazemi yet not even close, either. But he’s long been considered a budding piece of what Dana Altman is trying to accomplish. And now’s the time. From a personnel standpoint, the Ducks can’t quite hit the boards the way they used to. Or rather, the way Tony Woods and Kazemi did. They’ve shifted from a top 10 defense to a top 10 offense. The best offensive team Dana Altman has ever coached. As we move forward, the emergence of a Robin to Mike Moser’s Batman could greatly benefit the Ducks.
- DaVonte Lacy – There aren’t going to be many reasons to watch Washington State so I present this guy:
- Washington’s Front Court… amongst so many other things in Seattle – Maybe there isn’t much to watch here as this team has become decimated through recruiting failures and injury (RIP Jernard Jarreau). Perris Blackwell is a fine player, but he’s one man. This is Romar’s worst defensive team since – well it’s literally the worst defense he’s ever coached. They rank 287th in defensive efficiency giving up 1.09 points per possession. Woof. Teams are shooting a 54% eFG against them, otherwise known as 318th best nationally. Double Woof. And that front court that doesn’t necessarily exist? Allowing 70% shooting at the rim. Teams are shooting 56% from 2-point range and I could go on but I won’t because as the Dawgs allow more and more points it raises more and more questions I don’t want to discuss about the health of Husky Hoops. So why watch? Because it could be something of a last hoorah.
- Oregon’s SOS – It has to improve. Or perhaps better said: it’s going to. They’ll play all of Arizona (State and the good guys) and UCLA twice while only escaping a visit from Colorado. Amongst KenPom’s top-25 teams, the Ducks have the 5th easiest schedule. Completely to their credit, they’ve handled that schedule. But as the going gets tough we’ll get to see whether or not this team will Win the Day.
- Cal’s Injury Bug – First they dropped two tough games without Richard Solomon in the lineup at the Maui Invitational. Then Kreklow and Bird sustained injuries and it’s pretty wide open as to when either of these two is coming back. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not good. I love Bird’s skill set and he carried the Bears through a few games earlier this year. They’ll now rely even more heavily on seniors Cobbs and Solomon as well as soph Ty Wallace and junior David Kravish. That’s a nice foursome, but nothing close to what this team is with Ricky and Jabari. Will their absence cost the Bears a chance to dance?
- The POY Race – I wrote really early in the year about this because why not? This is going to shake out to be a really great race because there are so many players that will be worthy of the title for so many different reasons. From Joseph Young who gets points like a Fuel Band to Kyle Anderson who does everything like a Swiss Knife, how will voters (Pac-12 coaches) evaluate? Value (Nick Johnson, Anderson, Delon Wright, Mike Moser)? Skill (Young, Jahii Carson, Jordan Adams)? Whatever the case, it’s not going to be Jorge Gutierrez.
- Arizona’s Depth – Or lack thereof. They’re a damn talented team who then ranks 312th in percentage of bench minutes. The Pac-12 season is a grind and getting into the Yorks, Pitts’, and Korcheks of this lineup could help alleviate some of stress on the core-six. But it’s a really good core-six. One thing I’ve long been interested in – ever since he started the first game of the year – is the development of Gabe York. He wasn’t expected to be getting much tick – his defense a liability and a thorn in Miller’s side. But he’s shown some ability to defend but it’s his shooting ability (42% 3FG%) that I believe could make Arizona the hands down favorite to win this whole damn thing. But he’s not quite there yet. Conference play will be his chance to cut his teeth in some big games.
- Hot Seats – I hate this topic but it’s going to come up and as a given team maybe does worse than we might expect, there could be some seats warming up all over the conference. The influx of coaching talent across both football and basketball in the past 3 years has been impressive and if you’re not keeping up with the Joneses then you’re just losing sporting events. There are going to be a few ADs with tough decisions in the coming months. You already know which ones they are and so do they.
- Dunks –
- Delon Wright and the Scorin’ Utes – Larry K’s team has exceeded the 120-point mark twice this season and they’re third in the nation in points per game (87.4). They’ve also played nothing short of a middle school schedule but that’s a whole different topic. Delon Wright has been an incredible addition to this team. He’s doing almost everything for them: 15/7/6, 138.3 ORtg. The obvious here is that I’m intrigued to see how he fairs against better competition; which begins tonight as he and the Utes host #10 Oregon and all of the guard talent in the world. The other thing to note about Utah here is that they have the fifth highest eFG% in the nation. Again, the schedule stuff, but at a certain point we have to appreciate that what Larry K’s team is doing is simply efficient. Excited to see how it translates. They’re 11-1.
- Jahii Carson – Because he’s Jahii Carson.
- #20 Colorado – The lede here is that they’re ranked and Tad’s making a name of this program and Spencer Dinwiddie is likely league-bound and then something else about Askia Booker putting up shots like a Tri-Delt. It’s all true. But let’s take a moment to think about Josh “Jelly” Scott as we head to conference play. The guard play in this conference is obscene. The Arizona bigs have been getting their love but how about Scott? Here are his numbers in Colorado’s last four games: 15 points and 11 boards. That’s a lot of everything you’d want from your big. He takes just 7 shots per game to get his points, which is grossly efficient. And this is the point in the blurb that I mention his free throw rate: 88.2. That’s a 147% increase over last season’s FTRate. He’s drawing greater than 6 fouls per forty minutes. Once perceived as soft, he’s banging his way to the free throw line and offensive success. Such a post asset is going to bode well for the Buffs as we make our way towards March.
- Vegas – Things happen there that should stay there. You know this and I know this and the Vegas travel bureau markets that. Certain things should stay there including the Pac-12 tournament. This will be year two of the three year contract that I fully expect to be renewed. But I don’t expect many teams to be sticking around Vegas. What I mean is I think there’s going to be a hearty number (seven) of Pac-12 teams leaving Vegas for the big dance. I also think this Pac-12 tourney is going to be as fun as it gets. Hoops on basketball on baskethoops.
This was no easy task. Back courts across the Pac-12 are loaded this season and a major reason why the Pac is Back. Thus, not coincidentally, this list most closely resembles how I think the conference will shake out. There are big guards and small guards and quick guards and shooters. Veterans and pups. I’d pit this group against any in the country. Alas, they’re just going to pick on each other like Miami Dolphins.
- Oregon – Sure the Ducks just lost Dominic Artis to entrepreneurship, but they replace him with the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament MVP. Oregon has guard depth as deep as this guy is drunk. Joseph Young (18ppg), Damyean Dotson (11ppg), Jason Calliste (11ppg), Johnathan Loyd (5ppg), Dominic Artis (9ppg). [somewhere Mike Moser smiles].
- Arizona – You can try and tell me that TJ McConnell hasn’t played at the highest level but I’m not about to knock him for that. I’ve watched mid-major talent the last four years in the Pac-12. I know what good looks like when I see it. He’s joined by the ever improving Nick Johnson with Jordin Mayes backing each of them up. I like these pieces.
- Colorado – Came very close to being second on this list. While Dinwiddie vs. McConnell is not a draw (Mayor wins out), Askia Booker’s propensity to shoot and to pull up and to fire as compared to everything Nick Johnson does….well I’m giving the collective nod to the Cats. But man, Spencer Dinwiddie is good.
- ASU – This might be too low of a ranking for the Devils. Carson is one of the nation’s best and the addition of Jermaine Marshall is an upgrade over the departed Evan Gordon. Did I mention Jahii Carson is good?
- California – Aside from Loyd (who will be filling in for Artis) Cobbs is the first senior to make this list (and I’m not counting Marshall, either). He’s joined by Jabari Bird, a McDonald’s AA who isn’t getting near the love he might deserve because of Commissioner (Aaron) Gordon. But the wildcard here is Ty Wallace who I think could have a monster year for the Bears.
- Washington – I’ve heard mixed reviews on Nigel Williams-Goss and that’s OK. Another burger All-American, he’s an incoming freshman so there’s going to be equal parts question marks and hype. I get it. But CJ Wilcox. CJ Wilcox. CJ Wilcox. Perhaps the best shooter in the conference is now a senior and very well could have the dynamic, distributing PG to get him even more touches in ideal spots. The rules changes should also help to get him even more open looks. BOMBS AWAY. (Andrew Andrews mention)
- UCLA – Their point guard is 6’9″ and goes by the name of slow-mo. That would seem inauspicious but Kyle Anderson is one unique talent. The Bruins are going to miss LD2 but Anderson’s play making and size will make UCLA a tough out. Oh, and that Jordan Adams kid is my favorite.
- Stanford – Last year I was very high on the prospects of Chasson Randle who I loved watching slash into the lane and get buckets. He could shoot it, too. His trajectory plateaued last season and he hit a cold streak from the field (44% from 3FG to 36%). This came inopportunely at the same time as Aaron Bright’s cold spell (44% from 3FG to 32%). So what’s the norm, I ask?
- Oregon State – Roberto Nelson is a fine player who can score with anyone in this conference. It appears, however, that he’s a one man show with Ahmad Starks (who was really high on him anyways?) departed. Challe Barton will get a crack at PG duties and there’s one more thing I want to mention: Malcolm Duvivier. Why you might ask? Because he’s definitively not Andrew Wiggins. But he is a Canadian prep star who reclassified from 2014 to 2013 to play American College Basketball. Ya hoser.
- Washington State – I’m a sucker for veterans – perhaps above talent? No – and the Cougars, for whatever their season will become, feature DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge. These two are nice players for Ken Bone, adding to the guard depth of the conference more than wins for WSU.
- USC – JT Terrell should benefit greatly from Dunk City as he’s an athletic guard who wants to get up and down the floor. Or at least get his shots up. Additionally Pe’Shon Howard is a nice pickup for ball handling duties as Enfield’s offense has a tendency for turnovers.
- Utah – I’m relatively high on Brandon Taylor. I liked his work down the stretch for the Utes but he’s a sophomore guard with little experience leading a team full of even less experience. His learning curve is steep and I wish him luck swimming in the deep end.