Tag Archives: Dwight Powell

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A Sweet Preview and Some PacHoops Art

I’ve been to Honda Center a handful of times. Most notably when it was called The Pond and we were all Might Ducks fans. Classic. For now, however, I want to discuss what I expect the gym to look like on Thursday when I’m there. It will be full of Badgers, Aztecs, Wildcats, and then the Baylor Bears. Here is my rendition of what the inside of Honda Center will resemble:

HondaCenter

Inside the Honda Center

Tell me I’m wrong?

 

Arizona v Colorado#1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State

Storyline: I love what Arizona has a chance to do here (shocker, right?). Should they advance to do what KenPom says they have the second best odds to do, Arizona would have beaten both SDSU and Gonzaga in doing such. Fitting. Last year the Zags were the first Western-based one-seed since UCLA in 2008. They were bounced like Shockers (round of 32). As for the Aztecs – between 2009 and a December 2012 loss to Arizona – SDSU won seven straight games against Pac-12 schools. They haven’t lost to a California based school in something like two Steve Fisher lifetimes (42+ games to be more exact). The Pac-12 was simultaneously doing things like not sending their conference champion to the NCAA tournament and so SDSU and Gonzaga were staking legit claim to the crown of West Coast hoops. But then Arizona beat SDSU in Hawaii (as far West as it gets) and again this past November. Arizona is reestablishing itself as the coast’s elite, San Diego State is trying to win the MWC’s first Sweet 16 game since 1991 (of current MWC members). I like the Wildcats’ pursuit of big things.

Style to keep an eye on: Look, let’s make no bones about it: San Diego State struggles to score. As in their offense ranks just a spot ahead of Northern Colorado and below Northwestern State. #GillingIt. They shoot the 304th ‘best’ FG% on their 2pt jump shots. This does not bode well for them. Arizona’s #1 rated defense is going to force them to take a lot of these shots. Their defense – as we’ve discussed – is predicated on forcing this shot and they do it better than anyone else in the country. So if you want me to run the math for us, I will: Arizona is going to force SDSU to take a ton of shots they don’t make. That’s a rock and a hard place framing that Aztec. And they really do themselves any favors. SDSU is already offensively inefficient and they assist on the third lowest percentage of FGs in the country. For a bro school, they’re really not being bros. Share the rock.

Match up to keep an eye on: Sean Miller doesn’t think there’s a “better guard in the country.” Never mind that his own off-guard is an All-American, Miller effused about Xavier Thames. And rightfully so. He’s putting up 27 per tournament game and draws fouls at a nearly 60% rate. Trouble with a capital DEPTH ISSUES FOR ARIZONA. But this is our match up section. That All-American we mentioned? He happens to be really good at guarding big guards no matter their skill set. Ask Jordan Adams, Roberto Nelson, Chasson Randle, Justin Cobbs, or Xavier Thames. Last time around, Thames got his points (note that aforementioned foul line) but he had to work for it; shooting 5-16 and just 3-12 from inside the arc. As noted, Thames is hot and the Aztecs have needed about every one of his buckets. The game hinges on his play.

Norman Powell, Xavier Talton#4 UCLA vs. #1 Florida

Storyline: The Gators have eliminated UCLA in three of their last six NCAA tournaments. That’s interesting by itself but now let’s note that one of those eliminations came in the national title game and another came in the national semifinal (Final Four if you need an assist). Florida won back-to-back titles and UCLA watched Ben Howland lose his team, program, and eventually his job. We could play the Sliding Doors game and note the ‘what ifs’ but that’s just mean (Like I don’t dwindle on Tim Floyd or Kevin O’Neill thoughts as an Arizona fan). This one means something to the UCLA community no matter who struts that sideline.

Style to keep an eye on: All of it. UCLA wants to get shots up, owners of the 15th shortest possessions in the country. Conversely (a key word as we walk through this match up) Florida forces teams to take the 2nd longest possessions in the country. The Bruins do one helluva job stealing the ball and turning that into transition offense. I writed all abouts it. They’ve got the 4th highest steal rate in the country feeding the 39th highest percentage of transition offense. The converse? Florida’s offense has a very mediocre steal rate (ranks 188th) but have the 13th best transition defense. Are you with me here? These two have very opposing styles which makes for one terrific match up. It projects to be a lot like the Pac-12 championship game which was phenomenal. Hooray the March sport!

Match up to keep an eye on: I’m going to list a few because I’m interested in this. First, Kyle Anderson and Will Yeguete. Few people can stop let alone slow, Slo-Mo. He’s too big for traditional guards, too crafty for bigs, and too good for the rest of the floor. Will Yeguete, however, may have the guile (read: size and athleticism) to contain the point-forward-center-wing. Yeguete is Florida’s 6’8″ garbage man. A crazy thought if you consider just how much dirty work a guy has to do in order to be considered the guy that does the dirty work on a Billy Donovan team. He just might be dirty enough to stop Anderson. Conversely (I’m using it again), there’s nothing dirty about Michael Frazier’s jumper. It’s a thing of beauty. He connects on 44% of his threes and Shot Analytics went ahead and reminded us just how good he is (spoiler: quite good). And UCLA’s defense poses the match up here. They allow the fourth highest percentage of shots to come from distance. Me thinks Michael is going to get some looks. Also, I’ve got to mention the transition D (Florida) vs. transition O (UCLA), again. SUCH A GREAT MATCH UP THAT I’M NOT GOING TO GET TO WATCH WITH THE SAME TIP TIME AS AZ-SDSU. Uggggh.

Stanford v Connecticut#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton

Storyline: Three weeks ago Stanford was dead to rights. They had just lost at home to Colorado on a weekend that probably couldn’t see them lose at home to Colorado. And then, on the season’s final Saturday, I was looking up at the television to see Utah with the ball down a point, with a shade less than a shot clock of time remaining, and presumably a play drawn up to sink Stanford’s dancin’ chances. Evidently the Utes didn’t have a play as they dribbled everywhere and eventually off themselves and Stanford won. And they’ve subsequently beaten Kansas, too. Yup, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford Cardinal. The Card have now claimed two of their four biggest wins since joining the biggest stage. So what’s beating KenPom’s #44 team, Dayton (rated below ASU and Utah)? Let’s just say the Stanford Cardinal – dead to rights, playing for their coach’s job – have a very legitimate shot to be playing for a Final Four against a team (UCLA) they’ve already beaten. Think about that. And why the hell not? Stanford beat Kansas – Kansas – without making a single three pointer! The Jayhawks hadn’t limited an opponent to zero 3-pointers since 11/26/2010 when Ohio went 0-18 and Kansas won 98-41. Reread that score. A week later the Jayhawks did the same thing to North Texas as they went 0-12 and Kansas won 93-60. Stanford went 0-9 from deep and beat Kansas.

Style to keep an eye on: Don’t expect Stanford to win going oh-fer from distance this time. Not necessarily because of Dayton – they actually defend the three quite well – but because of the law of averages. Alas, this game won’t soon hinge on the three pointer. This is a game Stanford should win. They’re the bigger, stronger, faster kids who just beat – arguably – the biggest, strongest, fastest team. They’re playing as good of defense as they have all season (0.85 ppp in the tournament) and it really doesn’t matter what they’re doing offensively if they can do that. Similarly, Dayton has been playing sound defense, allowing teams under 0.9 ppp in the tournament. Granted, they’ve upset Syracuse and Ohio State who are (were?) more defensively than offensively oriented, but that shouldn’t take away from their defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Flyers haven’t particularly scored it well. They are well below their average offensive efficiency in the dance. This could come down to a battle of who can out ugly the other, garnering a few easy baskets off turnovers or offensive rebounds (looking at you Josh and Dwight, though the O-boards aren’t Stanford’s game). I’ve been saying it for awhile, that I’m no longer concerned with pageantry, but if you need to see something that looks good, avert your eyes from this game.

Match up to keep an eye on: The best match up here is Stanford staring down the barrel of Father Time. I’ve spoken about it all over the place – how this is Johnny Dawkins’ group of seniors that stayed. I could note Devin Oliver, Dayton’s stretch-ish four. A 6’7″ 39% 3FG% who is still taking 36% of shots at the rim and leading the team in rebounding…and assists. A similar player to Dwight Powell in that versatility. But at this point, it’s all about Stanford. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. They are on their last legs. A team on some semblance of a mission to play one more game together. And then another. And another. Until there just aren’t any more games to play.

Hooray the March sport, indeed.

March Madness

Half the Pac Dances: Previewing It All

Let’s just get this part out of the way: here is a printable bracket. Now how about it? We’re here, March, with half the conference of champions dancing. That’s the most since 2009 (when it was the Pac-10) but let’s not harp on circumstance.

Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

Opening Remarks: For one reason. That’s what I said this season was about in November and that’s what it’s about today. It’s been no secret that this would be Sean Miller’s best team and it has not disappointed. Of course this is the point in the year when it becomes lasting disappointment – the kind that scars and hurts like the pretty girl’s “I have a boyfriend.” But there’s that instance that she says “yes” and so we love this tournament.  After losing to UCLA in the Pac championship game (his third such loss in five years), Miller had this to say:

If we won this championship, it’s about next week. If we lost this championship, it’s about next week.

Next week is now and the selection committee seems to have given Arizona a pretty favorable draw.

First Opponent: First up are the Weber State Wildcats who will try to become the first ever 16-seed to beat a one. SPOILER: They won’t but so much Wildcats. Weber State is a pretty classic profile of the David mold: good at threes (14th best 3FG% in the nation), slow (272d adjusted tempo), and offensively carried by one dude (Davion Berry has near top-50 usage). I probably don’t need to explain why Arizona will win but if you really need one, it’s because Weber State’s best defensive attribute (of which they have few) is that they limit threes. To which the Arizona varietal of Wildcats will kindly oblige, not shoot, and likely dunk. Yes, the Ogden based Wildcats stand little chance but I wish them luck as my boss hails from Ogden. Oh, and I’m far from buying this Oklahoma State hype.

Stories: It remains one of my all-time favorite times as a fan. We were buried deep in the guest bedroom of my parents house. Eight of us surrounding a shitty television by even the standards of a household that didn’t have cable until just a year prior. But it was the television we needed. And with every Wildcat success, a new superstition was born. There was face paint, squatting positions, gestures, noises, assigned seats, reassigned seats, and yelps until we willed Blake Stepp’s gimme out of the hoop and into Luke Walton’s arms. Rick Anderson would later call it the greatest game he had ever played in. Arizona had beaten Gonzaga in thrilling double-overtime fashion. The stage is set, let’s run it back.

Best/Worst:

  • National champions. It’s that or bust.
  • Third round. I’ve been dogging Oklahoma State but any team with a first round point guard in this tournament stands a chance.

#4 UCLA Bruins

Opening Remarks: Well now that the Bruins are a four-seed, me lauding them as a top-15 talented team doesn’t really mean much. The committee’s megaphone is greater than mine and means a lot more. Good work, guys. Further, the Bruins have the deadliest back court in the country. But y’all know this (aside from the Cougars AMIRIGHT?!?). But did you realize that UCLA has never lost a tournament game (of any non-preseason variety) when both that horrifying backcourt has been intact. Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are undefeated when playing together in tournament games (5-0). This is the champion of the championship we needed and deserved; a nomination that drew some debate on the twitter. The primary argument being big dance success is where the real ‘respect’ is earned. I can’t disagree with that.

First Opponent: I don’t think these Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are version of Danny and the Miracles. Led by Kansas great, Danny Manning, the Golden Hurricanes (GH moving forward ’cause that’s a lot of letters) are a pretty tough defensive squad. They’re top 30 in defensive efficiency and while you might see this as a strength, I don’t. Arizona, the best defense in the world, couldn’t stop these Bruins. The Wildcats were about to have to shoot their way to victory and nearly did (with a wildly improved defensive effort in the second half). Tulsa touts just an average offense which should allow an opportunistic UCLA defense to get enough stops to outscore the GH. Plus, who the hell guards Kyle Anderson? No seriously, I pose this question to the entire nation.

Stories: Unlikely but worth noting, New Mexico is in this region. An Alford-UNM matchup wouldn’t occur until the elite-eight but wouldn’t that have some heat. I mean, just imagine the Bruins Nation reaction to that loss. And speaking of potential melt downs on a certain web site, run through this scenario: a second round matchup of UCLA and VCU. Shaka Smart was on fans’ shortlist of UCLA head coaching candidates. Could a UCLA win here finally get people on the Alford train? It’d be second sweet-sixteen and most certainly his first when he was expected to get there. Of course, the converse…? And if we’re going to harp potential match ups, let’s look at the most likely. How sweet would a UCLA-Florida sweet-sixteen game be? Two of those three great Howland Final Four teams were dismissed by Billy D’s dominant Florida squads. They’d go on to win back-to-back titles. UCLA would fire Howland. This iteration of the rivalry would be awesome, featuring a top offense (UCLA) versus a top defense (Florida) and I imagine it’d play out a lot like the Pac-12 title game which was just fantastic. Hooray sports!

Best/Worst:

  • Final Four. They have the guard play and talent to pull it off.
  • Third round. VCU poses a unique threat and Steve Alford has only been out of the first weekend once.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Opening Remarks: I saw the quote via twitter and can’t find the link to it so I’ll paraphrase Johnathan Loyd’s quote:

We’re very thankful to be in this position, a month ago this wasn’t a possibility.

That’s the absolute truth. And as I watched him and his squad streak into the Dance, I can’t help but think they could make some noise. The swag they re-generated in winning all those games didn’t disappear in one fell swoop from the Bruins. It’s still there, this team can shoot with anyone in the nation, and on a given night can outscore just about anyone. If Oklahoma State can garner as much Cinderalla attention as they’ve received, why not Oregon?

First Opponenet: If NC State was unanimously the most shocking invite, BYU has got to be the second most startling. They were in just 89 of the 100 brackets aggregated at BracketMatrix which was the second fewest to the Wolf Pack who were in just two of the 100 brackets (the aggregated total may have changed since publish). Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that Oregon will indeed be playing the Cougars so let’s make a Vegas line out of it: Over/under 20,000 points in this one? These two have already played one game this season and combined for 196 points. Hell, they combined to score 28 points in the five minute overtime. BYU’s offense is faster than a message board thread turning weird, quicker than a live-look in at a 16-seed’s second half lead. The Cougars gets shots up like spring break. They score the third most points per game in the country. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino (the Cougar backcourt) do a great job of getting up and down the floor, leading the third highest percentage of transition offense in the nation. Oregon, meanwhile, takes the 25th highest amount of shots in transition, score the 11th most points per game, and 12th most efficient offense going. Want to see some kids run around a basketball court? Tune into this.

Stories: I think the Ducks outscore BYU and have a shooter’s chance to knock off Wisconsin. The Badgers are touting what everyone keeps calling the “best Bo Ryan offense ever.” Isn’t that any oxymoron? My point is that Oregon has a shot (pun) at their second straight sweet sixteen which could potentially have them facing the Creighton Blue Jays, Dana Altman’s old school. An establishment he never took to the Sweet-16. So this would play out like one of those awkward times when you run into your ex-girlfriend while you’re on a date at the ballet but the ex was always pissed you would never take her to the ballet. Hey, new girl gets new things. Rest assured, break ups happen for a reason.

Best/Worst:

  • Elite eight. They can out offense just about anyone but they’re not beating Arizona again.
  • Second round. Live by the three; die by it.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

Opening Remarks: My gut was that I kind of liked what I saw for the Buffs. They were playing Pittsburgh who I’ve long sensed has a propensity to not score and who ultimately hadn’t really played anyone all season. But we can discuss that next. Now let’s just note and appreciate that Colorado has made three consecutive NCAA tournaments. Arizona and UCLA haven’t done that. This isn’t the team the Buffs thought they’d be this time of year but the fact of the matter is the Buffs are doing plenty of believing. I sincerely think they made this tournament because they believed they were supposed to and so they did. That reads pretty simplistic but this invitation is a very strong indication of Colorado’s culture shift.

First Opponent: So as I noted, my gut thought this was a good matchup. My research doesn’t really support that. First of all, it’s in Orlando. That’s clear across the country for Tad’s crew which is hurdle number one. Secondly, Pittsburgh is efficient on both sides of the ball, a pretty well rounded team. The Buffs, meanwhile, haven’t broken the 1.00 point per possession barrier in more than month (2/16 at USC, the conference’s worst defense). But the Buffs can defend and the Panthers take their sweet offensive time (271st in average  possession length). If Colorado stands a chance, it’d be in forcing those long possessions into some uncomfortable looks, create some bad shots, board like Buffaloes, and get run out on those D-boards.

Stories: I haven’t really found anything too interesting about where Colorado stands today. They’re a little bit over-seeded all things considered but they’ve also been shipped across the country to play in a quadrant built as Gator bait. But maybe getting an eight is a hat tip to the direction of the program? That’s something to smile about and hope for the best. In the meantime, Daytona Beach is supposedly a great Spring Break spot.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They can squeak past Pitt particularly if Pitt allows the game to be close. But Florida in Orlando?
  • Second round. They could also not squeak past Pitt.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Opening Remarks: They made it! It only took six years for Johnny Dawkins to do what Dana Altman did in year three, Sean Miller and Tad Boyle did in year two, and Steve Alford did in year one.   Hell, Herb Sendek did it in year three. Quite the leash but NIT titles evidently buy you time in Palo Alto. The invitation came through, no matter how you want to criticize, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

First Opponent: They draw the New Mexico Lobos. One thing I did hear Doug Gottlieb quickly note on the Selection Show was that UNM struggles with the stretch four. I have no idea how to quantify this other than to note that UNM was 2-1 against SDSU who seems to have an entire roster of stretch fours. Well so too does Stanford, as Gottlieb’s proclamation would seem to be a great scenario for Huestis and Powell. But I think the main reason Gottlieb was suggesting this was because the Lobos do a generally good job of keeping teams away from the rim. Teams 32% of their offense from beyond the arc against UNM – the 19th highest percentage in the country. Good news for Stanford! Despite all of their size, they love going nowhere near the rim, content taking the 294th lowest percentage of rim shots. It’s from mid-range and out where Stanford can cause damage (I see you Anthony Brown) and New Mexico might let them.

Stories: Honestly, what more do you want beyond the fact that this team is in the tournament? More? OK. Well I’m kind of intrigued by the idea that this New Mexico team used to be Steve Alford’s. What if they make it further than UCLA? What if every team with a loose affiliation with UCLA (Iowa, UNM, VCU, Boston Celtics) makes it further? I’ve wildly digressed but I’ve struggled to dramatize this Stanford team all season. They do such a good job of it themselves. So maybe if I say enough bad things about Stanford, like how they’re not the best corner-back in the game, maybe Richard Sherman will come get them all pissed off for greatness?

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They have the size and pieces to get past New Mexico but not Kansas (of course it is Kansas in March).
  • Second round. Many think that UNM is under-seeded which doesn’t bode well for the Cardinal.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

Opening Remarks: James Harden isn’t about to walk through that door, but even he couldn’t get the Sun Devils out of the first weekend. Nope, ASU’s season is perennially over by mid-March. They were the last Pac-12 announced, the selection committee with a cruel jest certainly not saving the best for last. They did, however, manage to escape a play-in game which I think is a good thing. And while Harden isn’t walking through that door, Jahii Carson most certainly is. He’s their must watch TV and March is must watch television. In skimming this amusing tourney guide, I was intrigued to find out that Jahii averages 20.8 points in 30 career neutral court games. That’s neat.

First Opponent: Rather than break down my thoughts on Rick Barnes and that beacon of mediocrity, let’s highlight Isaiah Taylor. I’ve only seen a handful of Texas minutes played this season but he was about as exciting a guard as I saw play all season. He did as he pleased in games against Kansas (23 points) and Iowa State (26 points). His FTrate is a threatening 58% which ASU doesn’t do a particularly good job of limiting. But what’s most interesting about this shifty little guy, is that he takes just 5.4% of his shots from deep. This means, Taylor is breaking down defenders and getting to the rim. And who’s he going to meet at the rim? Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Block-chynski. In general, there isn’t too much that jumps off the page about either of these teams offensively. I kind of like the idea of it becoming a battle of best players and ASU actually has the best player in this one. They also have Jonathan Gilling.

Stories: Steve Patterson isn’t the most well liked guy but neither are Texas or Arizona State. Patterson, naturally, just left ASU after less than two years in Tempe to be the AD in Austin. In trying to learn more about this, I came to find out that ASU president, Michael Crow, was upset about Patterson’s departure. And then I got to the line in the article where they noted that Crow was paying him about $450k and Texas was offering $1.4M. Are you kidding me Michael? I’d cheer Rick Barnes results for $1.4M a year, too.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. It’s Rick Barnes in March and ASU has one of the best players going. But ASU-Michigan is not a match up I like if we’re looking for ways the Sun Devils advance.
  • Second round. Texas ain’t bad.
tony parker

A Review & A Preview: Expect the Unexpected

The combined score differential yesterday was 75 and no one saw that coming. Noting such would suggest that it wasn’t a great day. Ben told me he felt gypped. Free throws aside, Utah didn’t score for 692 seconds. Oregon missed all of the threes and the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year? Good job and good effort. Stanford posted the highest offensive efficiency against the Sun Devils of anyone this season. You can also read that as ASU’s worst defensive effort.

Point being, yesterday was March. We asked for the unexpected and we got it. Utah had lost 10 games prior to Thursday by a combined 41 points. Then lost by 32. Oregon and UCLA had previous battled to the tune of even double overtime and last second Wear. Wasn’t Thursday’s case. Oregon had been shooting 47% from three in their previous nine games. Shot 30% last night. ASU’s defense.

And with that context, our worst game was Cal-Colorado (not our worst game). These two played almost the identical game as they did on Saturday, so much so that Colorado scored the exact same number of points in regulation (59). Cal couldn’t quite get there so, naturally, they lost. Justin Cobbs had two chances at Cobbsicles but missed. I hate watching seniors lose.

So we asked for the unexpected and we got it. We asked for the dramatic and the final shots and we got it. Pretty nice little Thursday.

PREVIEWS!

There are two games before it comes to fruition and I’m a big fan of this:

But there are two games. Arizona will attempt to achieve the double trifecta – defeating a team three times in one season – which I cannot confirm as a first or not. However you slice it, the assumption is that it’s difficult but then Arizona beat Utah by 32. I suppose there’s a precedence both ways. However you slice it, Colorado has won three of four (all wins coming by a score of 59-56, odd) and is playing about as Colorado as it gets: effective and opportunistic offensively (transition, Josh Scott, and hot shooting), solid defensively (0.91 ppp allowed in Vegas). But solid and effective aren’t enough to beat what appears to be the most focused Arizona has been all season. Utah looked the Wildcats in the eyes and Medusa turned them to stone. Colorado tried that once, too. Didn’t work out too well (-27 at home).

The evening slate pits Stanford and UCLA. They split the season series, holding home court in both instances. We could rattle off more speak of Stanford’s seniors or UCLA’s transition game, but these are topics we’ve exhausted. What we need to note here is that the games they split, were both rather lopsided. In Westwood, the Bruins won by 17. In Palo Alto, the Cardinal won by 9. Now margin of victory doesn’t always tell us much but – as we noted at the top of this page – it may be fair to expect something lopsided. If these two have played two games that they each ran away with, who’s to say we won’t see a tight one tonight? I’m not opposed. KenPom predicts it at as a 76-75 game, Bruins edge. Tony Parker went off in blowing out the Cardinal. Can he do that again? Stanford shot 62% to beat the Bruins. Can they do that again?

I predict more of exactly what we want: college basketball in March.

Jordan-Adams

Session 4 Preview: Ducks, Bruins, Devils, Card

You know the great fallacy of men is that we don’t like drama. We’ve bro’d out over so many fresh coldies citing how much we hate and don’t need drama as the conversation turns to how excited your are to watch this month. The mystique is in the unknown, the drama. The unexpected becoming reality, narrative unfolding and collapsing before us. We don’t like drama. We crave it. Just don’t date it.

Here’s the evening’s preview of drama.

#7 Oregon vs. #2 UCLA, Yes Please O’Clock at Get to a TV Standard Time
The Scoring Game

Before Oregon started this little eight gamer, we allowed ourselves some optimism because they had arguably the toughest stretch of their schedule upcoming: @UCLA, ASU, AZ. And then news broke that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams did something likely sophomoric (another intended pun) and would not participate in that game. This. Because when you start 13-0 and then go 2-8 we start to care less about how you’re winning and more about whether or not you ever will again. The Ducks are and I can’t agree more with this Ernie Kent quote:

The scariest thing is that they’ve got their swag back.

I wouldn’t even call it scary. I’d call it Errol Childress. This is a group of transfers – a team that spent the middle portion of their season playing uninspired, lackadaisical basketball – who came to Eugene to Just Do It. And now they have their swag back!? We criticize the system of aggregating these castoffs and are quick to highlight its faults as this team faltered. But now they have their swag back. Because for all of the chemistry flaws we could cite that caused their near collapse, we can redefine those – certainly now – as strengths. Their strengths are their weaknesses. SWAG.

Damyean DotsonOf course while we’re on this narrative kick, did you see the ass kicking UCLA just endured? I haven’t really discussed it much but note that teams were putting up 1.16 points per possession against the Cougs in the thirteen games since they’d last held a team below 1.00ppp. So naturally WSU would hold the conference’s best offense (1.15ppp) to 0.82ppp. Only Mississippi Valley State and San Francisco State fared worse against the Cougs. All of which is to say that game was literally an aberration. You couldn’t run that through a simulator a gajillion times and never get an event remotely close to that. Which is to say UCLA would seem to be pissed and far from defined by that game/outcome. Furthermore, UCLA has lost 3 of 4 to the Ducks and probably thinks they should have won the Wear family miracle so that both David and Travis could stake claim to last second heroics in defeating Oregon. Alas, stories aside, this is a great match up.

Our first stop down match up lane is with Oregon’s offense. I’ve called them a mid-major with a budget and I’m going to stick to that. Yes it’s important for them to get defensive stops but it’s not their strength (SWAG). The three point shot is important to them. During this eight game win streak, they’ve maintained 33% of their offense from distance (their season average) but are shooting a blistering 46% from deep. Aside from these eight games, the Ducks shot a great 37%. But 46% as a team? Compare that to their losses where we find the Ducks taking 56% of their shots from deep and connecting on just 33% of those shots. Fair to say the Ducks live by the three and die by it? Now consider the fact that UCLA allows teams to shoot 41% of their offense from deep and begin to make your game considerations. Of course if Oregon is going to try and outscore you, UCLA is the team that can counter by outscoring them. They lead the conference in offense and they do that by getting into transition. They get into transition by stealing basketballs (Jordan Adams is the school’s all-time single season steals leader). UCLA is sixth in the nation in creating fast break offense from a turnover. Meanwhile, Oregon ranks fourth in the conference and 41st nationally in TO%. It means they take care of the ball pretty well and limit opponents to the 12th lowest percentage of transition offense from a steal, 4.1% (IT’S MARCH AND I’M DEEP DEEP DEEP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE). In some regards, it would seem Oregon has the transition antidote, but collectively, the Ducks are an average (128th) team in limiting transition attempts. In summary: 

DUCK SWAG AND SHOOT. BRUIN MAD AND RUN

#3 ASU vs. #6 Stanford, Do you actually think this game will tip remotely close to its scheduled tip after three games, three intermissions, and a clearing of the venue? PST
The What’s Stanford Going to Do Game

If you were watching the Stanford-WSU game then you definitely don’t live on the East coast (I see you, CE). But you also heard Don MacLean exhaust the Stanford-must-win narrative. Now, to be fair, it was his fourth game of the day – a marathon. I imagine he did well at XS last night but that’s probably a tale we won’t soon hear. On that note, how much do you think KO is hating being relegated to the SF studio show when – you know – Vegas? Digression. Stanford needed to win that game – obvs – and they did. Post-game, Dwight Powell dropped the rare truth-and-reality bomb when he noted that he had never been to the NCAA tournament. Now I already mentioned that MacLean exhausted it and I already mentioned that I didn’t want to exhaust it when discussing Cal. But in Stanford’s case, this may be nonexhaustive. They’re the class that stayed – nary a one transferring or leaving early, a rarity these days. And they’ve never been to the NCAA tournament. So where are they today? Who cares. The Card need a few less f**ks given and some more of the Ernie-sais-quais: SWAG. Matt said it great on WANE yesterday, “…they don’t do anything easy. Stanford does things the hard way.” Which I thought was the easiest way (see what I did there?) to describe the Cardinal. In diving further into it, I got to thinking about how we make things easier for ourselves. Usually, when I want to make something easier, I’ll ask a friend. I’ll seek help. I’ll look for an assist! AHA! So I looked at Stanford’s assist rate and – low and behold – it’s the lowest in the conference. They have two First-Team All-Conference performers (Powell and Randle), an All-Defensive stud (Huestis), and the most improved player (Anthony Brown) in the conference. It’s a team littered with talent working in silos. Which would explain how/why Stanford has no bad losses (aka teams less talented than them) and really only a handful of quality wins (@ UConn, UCLA, Oregon). They’re 4-8 against the RPI top-50.

But maybe that’s enough about the Cardinal. Because they’re playing Maroon and a few contemporaries of mine like ASU to make a run into the championship game. They’ve got the right pieces – play making point guard, shooting off-guard, game changing big – and the venue is neutral which means it’s not a road game. The Herbivores were just 2-7 on the road this season. And there’s further data to suggest that the MGM serves as Jahii’s friendly confines. In last year’s Pac-12 tournament, Carson averaged 29 points on 61% shooting. He mixed in 11 assists and 9 boards while he was at it. So is it worth noting that Carson averaged 25ppg on 61% shooting against Stanford this season? Probably not (sarcasm font). But what we should note is that the Cardinal are pretty big up front. The third component of ASU’s projected success – game changing big in the form of a Bachynski – was a moderate factor in losing to Stanford (36 minutes, 7 points, 10 boards, 2 blocks) and a non-factor in beating them (15 minutes, 2 points, 3 boards, 0 blocks, 4 fouls). Is he a factor in this game? Hard to say. Stefan Nastic isn’t afraid to bump and Jordan isn’t afraid to flop. For all their size, however, the Cardinal make little effort to get to the rim. They rank 304th nationally in percentage of shots at the rim, begging the question – if we haven’t asked it already – is Bachynski a factor in this game? I mean, having an NBA prospect man the paint never really hurt anyone but it would seem that this will be the Jahii show. And he’s not afraid of that.

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Pac-12 Conference Awards: Top 5 Lists

Yesterday saw the announcement of the conference’s superlatives. It’s probably the third heaviest day of debate behind only Selection Sunday and the day in November when the preseason poll is dropped. But we can rank other things, too. Or, more aptly said, we can note a lot of the other great things that happened this season under the auspices that even more are coming (March). This is why we watched and remained so closely engaged. Great season.

Top 5 Moments

  1. Cobbs sinks Arizona –  In some regards, shots like this had become commonplace. I’d seen Cobbs step back for the win what seemingly became always. But the reality is that making fading jumpers with seven-feet and an arm coming at you is anything but commonplace. Neither is knocking off undefeateds.USATSI_7709655_221257_lowres-001
  2. Euro-step on a Jayhawk’s neck - Circled on Buffalo calendars for months – if not years – this one meant something. Colorado was a Kansas stepping stone for eons; Boulder the mountainous respite for the midlanders of Lawrence. Back-and-forth and then a sideline in-bounds and two dribbles. Euro step. Rush.
  3. Block-chynski, three times over - He’s now your Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and he perhaps locked that up by not once but thrice dismissing the would be game-tying or winning shot. Walk off blocks. He did it first against Marquette and then again Mutumbo’d Joseph Young’s attempt to tie. But then his biggest. The second ranked arch-rivals were in town and on Valentines Day. Fittingly, the national animal of Canada is the badger and Honey Bachynski don’t give a shit, blocking his ninth shot to seal the win and a premature court storming.
  4. Dotson steal, dunk, gamer – It was the first game of the conference season (or at least the first that I saw) and it came down to the final possession, a stolen basketball, a dunk, and a dog pile. In this play alone we could write out the narratives of half the conference and it came on the first game of the season. Like I said, good. effing. season.
  5. TBD – We haven’t yet played the Pac-12 tournament. So…full credit to UCLA?


Top 5 Games

  1. #1 Arizona @ Cal - Read this in your best Gus Johnson voice, “COBBS! SHAKE. STEP BACK…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AT THE BUZZER. J COBBS! COLD BLOODED.” Amiright, Husky fans? Goosebumps. Yeah, it may have been my team, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.
  2. #10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado - I’m not positive if you’ve been paying close attention but the last handful of seasons haven’t been particularly elite. Furthermore, the pace of the game has slowed significantly, such that the NCAA has changed the rules to pick scoring up. Those notes considered, to have Oregon and Colorado square off in a top-20 battle and the final score read 100-91? Well I thought I was in heaven.
  3. Oregon @ UCLA - I really don’t care whether or not Slo-Mo or Jordan Adams played. This game involved a near Twin Killing. And that’s not even the proper use of that idiom but when you’ve got a full court baseball heave from one human of identical DNA as the heave’s recipient who then hits a game tying three-pointer as time expires? That’s amazing.
  4. #6 Kansas @ Colorado – I said as much when discussing the moment, but this one meant something to the Buffs. How’s this for a quote: “Deep down I bleed Jayhawk blood,” Boyle said, “but now I’m 100 percent Buffalo to the core.”
  5. #1 Arizona @ Michigan – What more do you need to know other than that at one point in the season, Michigan, SDSU, UCLA, Utah, Colorado and Stanford were a combined 83-11 at home. The Arizona Wildcats accounted for 6 of those losses. “The toughest teams survive,” Sean Miller once told his team. And so he brought them to Ann Arbor - I went, too – and by the time everyone left, Jim Nantz told me he’d see us in Dallas. Great ball game.

Top 5 Stories

  1. Brandon Ashley’s Foot – You can’t read an Arizona narrative without hearing about their offense and how it’s either changed or regressed since Ashley hurt his foot. I mean, Arizona never lost a game Ashley played more than two minutes in. That’s a walk-on stat. Not the kind of stat of a 12 and 7 guy. The Arizona story was such that people were discussing their undefeated season and whether or not it could be the greatest Arizona team ever. That all changed in Berkeley on February 1st. The Wildcats (and considering our move #2 below), however, can still put to rest the ‘what if’ stories. But what if…
  2. Spencer Dinwiddie’s Knee – At halftime in Seattle, not much more than thirty minutes after The Mayor went down, the Colorado Buffaloes still stood a nearly 75% chance of winning that ball game. They were promptly outscored by 17 in the next 10 minutes of basketball. And this was what we were to expect the rest of the Colorado season. They would lose three of their next four and look far from competitive. But Xavier Johnson caught fire, Josh Scott got gooder, Askia Booker transformed and the Buffs would finish the season in an impressive fifth place.
  3. Steve Alford – It’s a big job and the shoes are even bigger. Nine men have tried to sit in John Wooden’s seat. By comparison, there have been just thirteen head coaches ever in the history of Arizona basketball. Eleven at Washington. They’ve run a conference champion out. Gene Bartow and Gary Cunningham – the winnigest by win percentage in school history – lasted a combined four seasons. They’ve won 36 conference titles, danced 45 times and won 11 of them. It’s a big job and it’s Steve Alford’s now.
  4. Delon Wright and the Utes - They were projected to finish ninth and they finished eighth. Whoopie do! But look me in the blog and tell me you’re not impressed with Utah. I am. That wasn’t your average eighth place finish and where did Delon Wright come from? I mean, I know he came from City College of San Francisco, but where did a 122 ORtg on 23.5% usage come from? Or, more traditionally, 16ppg, 7rpg, and 5apg come from? How about 2.6 steals and 1.3 blocks? Yeah, it all seemingly came out of nowhere and so now I ask: Who wants to play the Utes in Vegas?
  5. Stanfords Pursuit of the Dance – In 2012 they won the NIT in convincing fashion with a core of sophomores and we were excited! Oh how pissed off for greatness these budding trees were. And then 2013 saw essentially the same roster go 17-14 in the regular season; 9-9 in conference play. They were ousted in the second round of the tournament they were defending. Then seniors. Returning 80% of their minutes, I asked Johnny Dawkins, “What’s going to be different?” His answer didn’t impress me. He said they would be thinking about things differently. And now I ask you, faithful Pac-12 fan: Have the Cardinal thought differently enough to garner their first NCAA tournament since 2008?

Top 5 Seniors

  1. CJ Wilcox –  I could watch this guy take jumpers for days. He’s sixth all-time in Pac-12 three pointers made.
  2. Roberto Nelson - His coach said he was fit for the beer leagues and then played him the most minutes on the team. In the storied history of OSU basketball, Nelson is the fourth leading scorer, a spot ahead of AC Green.
  3. Justin Cobbs - Pac-12 coaches can now breath a little easier in late game situations as the iciest veins this conference has seen in some time departs.
  4. Jordan Bachynski – The conference’s all-time leading shot blocker. Additionally, Jordan has one of the finest career makeovers we’ve ever seen.JordanB
  5. Dwight Powell – Developed year-over-year and has one of the most exciting skill sets in the conference. Embodied the Stanford student-athlete.

Top 5 Moves

  1. Transition Bruins - Steve Alford’s 2013-14 UCLA team, his first in Westwood, was a complete deviation from his general coaching resume (contrary to what some make up). And it worked. He had never coached a faster team (70.3 possessions per game) and 27.2% of their offense came in transition. His highest percentage at New Mexico (as far back as those stats go) was 19.5%. This was also the most efficient offense he has ever coached: 1.15 points per possession.
  2. York into the Starting Lineup - All the season long, Sean Miller took the obviouis route of starting his most talented roster. He did it for 22 games, why change that philosophy now that Brandon Ashley was out for the season? So Rondae Hollis-Jefferson began starting. In their first four games without Ashley (including Cal), the Wildcats put up 1.01 points per possession (their season ppp is 1.12). Further, if you remove one game against the defenseless Beavers, that number drops to an ugly 0.94 ppp. Enter: Gabe York, the starter. And Arizona out on the break. Mark Titus would call it Christ Air and the Wildcats would begin to get into transition more (~25% of offense since York, ~19% before) and put up 1.01, 1.33, 1.28, and 1.18 ppp in those first four games. York’s also putting up an additional point per game and…ready for this…he’s averaging 4.3 boards, double his season average.
  3. Booker: The Evolution – He’s a shooter. You might even say a shot chucker, a loose cannon that’s never seen a shot he wouldn’t take. But that had to change when Spencer Dinwiddie went down with injury. And change it did. I documented it all here but note that Booker was central to helping Colorado very likely earn it’s third straight NCAA bid by changing the game he’s so often criticized for.
  4. Powell: The Evolution - I don’t know that it’s a good one but it’s a noticeable one. In this season of “thinking differently” in Palo Alto, Johnny Dawkins also had his hyper-athletic power forward become the offensive facilitator. He handily lead the team in assists (3.2/game) and assist rate (21.7%), both significant career highs. This ultimately moved him further from the basket (lowest percentage of shots at the rim in his career) but Stanford also posted their highest ORtg in Powell’s career at the school.
  5. Whatever this means, but something changed and it worked, too - “You pulled together,” Altman told the Ducks in the locker room. “You pulled together and found a way. We’ve won seven games in a row, and it’s you guys. It’s you guys. It’s your character, it’s your toughness — that’s what changed. We didn’t do anything differently. You guys said, ‘We’re not going to allow this. We’re going to dig down deep and we’re going to find a way.'” Dana Altman after beating Arizona.
AG_Scream

Fun Facts on the Pac-12’s Penultimate Day

This weekend we’ll spring our clock’s forward which is something I don’t generally like. But think of it this way: we’re one hour closer to the tournaments! But before that, we must get through tomorrow’s regular season finale. There are still infinite permutations of what seed which teams will garner for Vegas and I’m not going to break it down. It’s insane. On Monday we’ll have our All-Conference teams announced and the madness will begin. Or has it already begun? The calendar turned three months old last Saturday and the Pac has been anything but predictable. Utah won on the road. USC won.

We’ve got one day left, here’s a quick run through some fun facts of what you can expect to see, not see, or prepare for:

  • Oregon State hasn’t been swept on the weekend at home this season. Doesn’t bode well for ASU keeping the three seed
  • The Pac-12 has a road winning percentage of 67%. Since March, Pac-12 that home win percentage is 45%. Doesn’t bode well for Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Cal, or Washington State.
  • The last time the Wildcats won in Eugene it was called Mac Court and the Pac-12 was a twinkle in Larry’s eye. Oregon has since built an entirely new arena. Doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats.
  • The last time I went to a Colorado-Cal game, Cal’s best player went 2-17 and still won. Doesn’t bode well for Justin Cobbs or Colorado.
  • Utah hasn’t won consecutive road conference games since visiting TCU and Wyoming in February 2009. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • In two hosting events of the Colorado Buffaloes, Cal has yielded an average of 49 points per game or 0.77 points per possession. Doesn’t bode well for the Buffs.
  • Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Stefan Nastic, John Gage, and soon-to-be-fifth-years Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown are all celebrating their senior night in Palo Alto, Saturday. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • USC is playing a game. Doesn’t bode well for the Trojans.
  • Arizona is +74 in scoring differential when playing a team for the second time this season (5-1). Doesn’t bode well for the Ducks.
  • I have an Arizona-Oregon bet with Matt. It’s cumulative points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks of Aaron Gordon vs. Mike Moser. The first match up lead to an underwhelming 16 (Moser) vs. 14 (Gordon). I’m not winning right now and Moser is averaging 18 & 11 during this 6-game winning streak by the Ducks. Doesn’t bode well for Adam.
  • There are six Pac-12 games to behold on Saturday. Bodes well for us.

What did I miss?

Pointing Larry K

Three Road Wins and Fun with Graphs

Last night was as March as games not broadcast on CBS get. Every game saw a tie or lead change in the final five minutes (if not the final two minutes) and EVERY SINGLE ROAD TEAM WON. I’m not going to data mine to see if there has been a three pronged road sweep on a single night this Pac-12 season. But considering there have been only 44 road wins across 100 Pac-12 games, I don’t think we’ve seen it. Welcome to March.

Arizona @ Oregon State

I don’t know if this was a trap game or what it projected to be but I do know that there are some damn fine ball players on that Oregon State roster. They have size all over and Roberto Nelson is a scorer. Unfortunately, this was my mom’s analysis of the game, “It looked like one team had a plan and the other didn’t.” Well guess who won? Arizona did and was fortunate to do such if you’re asking their coach. He cited the Wildcats’ inability to rebound and so I present to you the expected rebounding numbers and the actuals and subsequently how Oregon State stayed in that game:Arizona_OSU

Colorado @ Stanford

If we break the game into quarters, the Colorado Buffaloes have been outscored by 45 points in the third quarter during conference play this season. That’s an average of about 2.7 points per game and worse on the road: -3.5 points, -25 collectively. Conversely, the Stanford Cardinal come out of the half and are plus 21. It’s a theme worth diving deeper into at another time but here is how last night’s battle for a bid played out:

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Colorado 12 21 13 13
Stanford 11 17 13 15

In what appears to be that critical third quarter, the Buffs managed to play things even, maintain their lead, and subsequently close the game. Oh, and this was critical at 2:01

Utah @ California

Numbers don’t lie:

Utah RoadUtah Road 3-5Oh, and what’s going on at Cal?

CJ Wilcox

Week 6 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

We’ve documented that there have been some injuries in this conference. They’ve unfortunately occurred at the risk of those playing the games and therefore Jamie Casino cannot be consulted (see The YouTuber below if you don’t know what I’m talking about). We’ve got to move forward because March approaches and like a minor league baseball career, we believe anything can happen.

GotW: The homestretch is here and with a clusterbang of overachievers, underachievers, and as we expecteds tied at 5-4, separation will ensue. We’ve talked a lot about how difficult winning on the road is. Well Cal kicked this whole thing off by beating Stanford in Maples, poopooing home court advantage and winning their next four games. The Cardinal now get their shot at revenge early on Wednesday night in this week’s GotW. I’m high on the Cardinal right now and it’s hard not to be high on Cal, too. After losing to Arizona, SDSU, Michigan, and Duke were a combined 923-2. What happens when you actually beat them? We don’t know but Cal does sit in a tie for second (tie-breaker for third) and is likely dancing right now. Meanwhile, it’s the Cardinal staring down the barrel of their fleeting collegiate lives on The Farm before they all go professional in something other than sports. Or at least that’s what their record might indicate as their talent level suggests otherwise. Whatever the case, this is a big rivalry game that included Stanford’s entire staff being ejected in last year’s game at Haas. That’s some GotW storyline material.

Game to Avoid:  The only game not involving at least one team that is at least 5-4 is Washington State‘s visit to Utah. Furthermore, it’s at an all too prime of a time on a Saturday as spring is springing on us and it might be a nice evening to do something else. That said, DaVonte Lacy is back and Delon Wright and the Fighting Krystkowiak’s are worth the price of admission. But if there isn’t  much on the line, and we are that much closer to the end of this season, you might be best suited doing something else.

Something to Prove: I was deliberating this one and making arguments one way or the other. Trying to weigh the consequences of a multitude of outcomes. “If this…well then those guys…but should they…and in the off chance that…” lots of introspection like that only to come to the following conclusion: If your record is 5-4, beginning this week and into the subsequent weeks, you have something to prove. You’re exonerated of any transgressions and ignored of any over-achievement. For clarity, this message is directed at 5-4 Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington. Sure those ahead of you (UCLA and Cal) and behind (Utah and Oregon) have their plates full as well. But you – you of this log jam – are in an auspicious position to play yourselves into the the most hallowed of tournaments this side of the Hunger Games. May the odds ever be in your favor (except maybe ASU).

Something to Lose: Bracketology and Joe Lunardi is keeping the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament conversation. This is somewhat surprising but they were once ranked 10th in the nation. The fact stands: they are in the conversation. But not for long. Not if they go and lay another big Duck egg in the desert. And yes, this is arguably the toughest road trip in the conference. But flying back to Eugene with two more losses and practicing on Monday at 3-8 isn’t going to cut it. There’s plenty of schedule remaining (two bouts with the Arizona schools and a trip to UCLA) but at a certain point the ditch you dig becomes inescapable.

The YouTuber: My dad was a personal defense attorney and he never produced anything like this. I mean nothing remotely close.

 

Justin Cobbs Winner

Week 5 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I propose a study of the hematological anomaly that is Justin Cobbs. My hypothesis is that researchers would discover not a mixture of hemoglobin (red blood cells), leukocytes (white cells) and plasma, but rather ice water. Or something of that ilk. Inexplicably it is not blood delivering oxygen and nutrients through the body of Cobbs but the coldest water on record. This proposed study won’t soon fly with the Food and Drug Administration or Mike Montgomery, but it could shed light on how the senior from Los Angeles can hit fading jumpers with tenths of seconds remaining in the face of seven-foot behemoths. Seriously, ice, hielo, glace, 冰:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Once again we could award this to the 7-1 Arizona Wildcats who, despite sustaining their first loss of the season and news they’d have to make their run to Dallas without Brandon Ashley, are still playing the best defense in the country (unless it’s Justin Cobbs who has the ball). Context: These Wildcats are giving up just 86.7 points per 100 possessions in conference. The next best team, UCLA, yields 96.7 points per 100 possessions. The ten point difference between first and second is equal to the difference between second and ninth. Sean Miller coaches a defense of a different color. But we’re going to divvy the clubhouse leading love and this week’s leader was the Oregon State Beavers. Craig’s team defended Gil Coliseum from the Angelinos and put themselves surprisingly into third place (we’re ignoring the fact that it’s a five-way tie for third and that doesn’t include the two-way tie for second ahead of them). And defend they did. Despite being the 10th “best” defense in the conference, they limited the second best offense (UCLA) to just 67 points. For just the third time in conference play, they held a team to less than 1 point per possession (that includes a game against WSU, by the way). Yeah, I’m lauding the defensive efforts of a Craig Robinson team; the same team that conversely has the best in conference offense and who beat the aforementioned Bruins despite Roberto Nelson delivering the following pre-Super Bowl: 2-8, 12pts, 5r, 4a, 6TO. That was ten points off of his average and double his turnovers. I mean that guy ranks 16th in usage percentage yet the Beavers prevailed with him contributing five percentage points less than his normal usage. A team-ish effort.

Biggest Loser: I want to meet the VooDoo Witch who allowed Arizona to remedy their free throw issues in two-nights at the expense of a Nick Johnson’s jumper and Brandon Ashley’s bones? Not cool, but this is:

 

Of course beyond that I thought the Ski Skirmish on Saturday morning was going to be a back breaker one way or the other. Brandon Taylor wasn’t about to let that happen – ONIONS – but it unfortunately just falls into the growing lore of Utah’s road woes. My hypothesis won’t be proven until the Utes take the court again (Thursday hosting Washington) and I hope I’m wrong, but getting so close but so far can only sustain energy levels so long. For as much as we want to applaud the Utes – they’re climbing up KenPom’s ratings, they’re perceived as a tough out, Delon Wright is one of the five best players in the conference – the fact remains that they are 3-6 and 10th in the conference.

What We Learned: This weekend was further confirmation that winning on the road is a miserable task. So difficult, in fact, that Pac-12 road teams rank 26th amongst 33 D-1 conferences. Of the 54 conference games that have been played, just 17 have been won by the weary traveler. And this weekend did not deviate as only ASU and UCLA won outside of their respective homes with the former needing overtime to do it. Now this is an important point as we head into the second half of the season. There’s a log jam within the conference standings and someone is going to slip up. Additionally, what a scary proposition a Utah road win is!

In Defense Of: I’m going to do it here. I’m going to defend Stanford because they are 5-4 in conference and 14-7 overall with a nice win over UConn and a bad loss to Oregon State (despite everything I said above OSU is still barely in the KenPom and RPI top-100). That’s a resume in need of defending. It’s ain’t sexy in the eyes of the committee and I think this team is really taking note. Had you been in Maples last Wednesday you’d have seen a man possessed in Stefan Nastic. Dwight Powell, seemingly relegated to the role of facilitator on this team, scored 41 points this weekend. Josh Huestis flirted with back-to-back double-doubles against the desert schools. The theme I’m illuminating here is that these three seniors, half of Dawkins’ 2010 recruiting class without mentioning John Gage (116.7 ORtg on 14.7% usage), Anthony Brown (115.7, 18.2%), and the injured Aaron Bright. These seniors are beginning to realize their fleeting eligibility. This is a talented team and they have nine games to act like it. From my perch, they’ve already begun. But things aren’t about to get easy for them. They’ll kick off this latter half with three consecutive roadies beginning Wednesday at Cal and followed by a trip to Washington. It’s going to be tough to right this ship, but everything worthwhile is.

The YouTuber: Cobbs bookends this review:

Andre and Nick

#1 Arizona Wins at Maples: How and Why

Dwight Powell’s six-foot-ten-inch frame had just taken the ball baseline for a reverse layup in a fashion few other six-foot-ten-inch men can do. The score was tied with less than one minute remaining. Crunch time, as it were, and Maples Pavilion had the acoustics of Y2K. Tiger Woods wasn’t there but Andre Iguodala was. Johnny Dawkins was more this, than this.

And if you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a quick breakdown of what Arizona does really well, their brand:

  • Defensive eFG% – #1 in the nation
  • Defensive efficiency – #2 in the nation
  • Offensive rebound % – #11 in the nation
  • Nick Johnson

These are the things that Arizona does so well and what they’ve ridden to an unblemished mark. Knock them off of these pillars and you have a good chance to win. Here is what Stanford did up until the game’s 9:58 point (more on that later, or rather, everything on that later):

  • 46% shooting – would’ve been third highest against AZ this season – to the 9:58 mark
  • 38% free throw rate and more stats that suggest Arizona’s defensive efficiency was threatened but it’s a wildly complex stat so I can’t really provide you context. Know that no other team has out-rebounded Arizona this season and Stanford did.
  • 2 offensive boards. That’s how many Stanford allowed Arizona to get up until the 9:58 mark. Arizona averages 13/game. The Cardinal’s work was roughly the equivalent of just one Belieber passing out at a Bieber show.
  • 9 points for Nick Johnson. He averages 17.

As I’ve often said before, Arizona does a phenomenal job of disregarding an opponent and playing their own brand of basketball. A brand defined by the former set of bullet points and a brand not being upheld as evidence of the latter set. Kudos Stanford on their first 30 minutes and 2 seconds of work.

So with Stanford’s effort as our backdrop, let’s look at that final 9:58, the final minutes, and how Arizona played Arizona basketball.

Powell’s bucket was Stanford’s first FG since the 9:58 mark. They were 1-9 during that 8:37 dry spell. They closed the game 1-10. We could include Powell’s two missed free throws in that window, too; but I learned in second grade that if the numerator is zero the answer is zero no matter the denominator. It’s not worth our while to include Powell’s free throws. They made just the herculean, NBA-esque Powell layup and two free throws Arizona intentionally made Chasson Randle shoot.

Defensive eFG%? Check.

Across roughly fifteen possessions, the Cardinal managed just the Powell layup on their sixteenth. Arizona forced two turnovers and had two blocks. They committed just the one foul and allowed just one offensive rebound.

Defensive efficiency? Check.

The play initially wound up in the hands of Brandon Ashley who had previously broke the back of the Wolverines. But he missed; and for all the aforementioned defensive success of the Wildcats, they were not matching it on offense. They were 3-13 in the same 8:37 window of Cardinal ineptitude plus one turnover. From 9:58 to end, Arizona grabbed four offensive boards. And so up went Ashley’s shot with seemingly a 77% chance of missing. It did and the live ball was grabbed by Kaleb Tarczewski.

Offensive rebounding? Check.

Yup, tied and ear splitting, we had a ball game. The giant, Polish, New Hampshite (?) had procured an offensive rebound which Arizona does at an elite level because they miss shots pretty regularly. Darwinism. Out the ball went and Nick Johnson squared up to his fourth three-point shot of the night – a fresh :35 be damned. This shot, like two of the three prior, went in. 58-55, Arizona. Johnson would grab the ensuing rebound on Chasson Randle’s eleventh miss of the night (Johnson, while we’re on it, guarded Randle the whole game and forced him into 3-15 shooting, 20%. Randle’s average game is 6.0-12.5, 48%). He’d sink two more free throws (we’re ignoring the one-and-one front he missed because I have a narrative to fill), head to the lockers with 16 points (game high), 5 boards, 4 assists (game high), zero turnovers, Arizona’s final 7 points, and get love from gold medalist, Iguodala. Arizona wins.

Nick Johnson? Check.