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:
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:
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:
Oh, and what’s going on at Cal?
While this group doesn’t hold a candle to the collective guard talent, there are some formidable pieces. The conference has brought in solid transfer bigs and we could see a record fall in Tempe. I’ll propose the question: What is Kyle Anderson and why’d ya do it, Eric Moreland? The bigs:
- Arizona – Three five-stars that each bring a completely different set of skills to the table. You can push Aaron Gordon to the three and he can talk all about his desire to play there, but the fact of the matter is, the kid plays above the rim. That’s Kaleb Tarczewski big. The impending health of Zach Peters (recently cleared) offers another six-feet-and-ten-inches of unique skill set (shots).
- Stanford – Maybe they haven’t won much but between Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis you’ve got everything you’d want in a front court. Each has springs and can play physical. Powell can score from all over the place while Huestis is about as tough defensively as they get.
- UCLA – I already gave Kyle Anderson some back court love, but last season he was asked to be more of a forward and he excelled at that – averaging nearly a 9 boards/game. The Bruins already feature the Wear family who’s been formidable and while Travis is out injured right now, David is healthy again and should have an improved season from a year ago. The unknown to this group – and the piece that could make them a pretty scare team – is the improvement and conditioning of Tony Parker. It’s an unfortunate annual event that we discuss the conditioning of a Bruin big but if one of them ever gets it about them to be in shape, look out.
- Colorado – Josh Scott had a great first season and particularly when he had fresh legs. His output tapered some as the season dragged on but that’s what sometimes happens with freshmen. He’s now a year aged and while he lost his rebounding running mate, Xavier Johnson projects to fill in nicely at the wing-forward spot while Buffs fans are also very high on Wesley Gordon.
- Oregon – One of their starters was suspended but that’s not the key piece. Mike Moser has proven to be a terrific power forward. In 2011-12 he was amongst the nation’s best players. Then a year later he wasn’t. Who is Oregon getting? I’m thinking it’ll be a lot more of the former than the latter. If Ben Carter can recover from his salesmanship and produce, this group could be tough with all those guards.
- ASU – Depth maybe isn’t their strong suit up front but if Jordan Bachynski can replicate last season, he will be the Pac-12’s All-Time leading shot blocker. That’s saying something.
- Oregon State – Let’s note right up front that Eric Moreland will be out for 14 straight games. We’ll also note that he’s a very good basketball player and flirted with the NBA. The First Team also has Devon Collier and returns everyone’s second favorite Aussie, Angus Brandt. In most any other system, I think these guys might be a top-four front court. But this is a school averaging just 15 wins a year the past three seasons. Sigh.
- California – I’ve said it before, I like Richard Solomon. I think he could have a big year. But to this point he’s been a foul prone athlete in Cal’s paint. His services have been supplemented by a walk-on named The Thurmanator. Solomon has the skills to be great, but will he? The other big in Haas is David Kravish who has a very sound skill set, a solid big, but he’s just not that big. Front court depth will also be a Bear-issue.
- Washington – They lose their anchor in Aziz but they’re bringing in a very interesting piece that LoRo says has the “potential to lead the team in scoring.” That’s nice – and scary, frankly, considering CJ Wilcox is on the team – but what I like the most about the addition of Perris Blackwell is that he’s a big body who’s going to let all those guards run amuck. Between him and the Rain Man Jr. (along with Desmond Simmons), the Dawgs have a few guys to get dirty in their second attempt at the high post offense. And this.
- Utah – This ranking hinges squarely on the fact that Jordan Loveridge is fantastic, he’s a double-double about to happen. Maybe he’s manning the middle alone now (bye Jason Washburn), but he’s man enough to do it. Worth noting, K did mention an improved and healthy Renan Lenz.
- USC – I don’t think these two are well suited for Andy Enfield’s tempo but they are serviceable bigs. Omar Oraby and DJ Haley are just too big for Dunk City. This is an offense that needs to get out and move and 7’2″ and 7′ tends to be a bit rigid when it comes to the fast break.
- WSU – Uhhhhh. They have their full allotment of scholarship athletes?
I’m not about to sing the glowing prospects of a team who’s best player has been accused – by the coach – of being a Beer Leaguer – and who’s other top-two players were indefinitely suspended. No that doesn’t quite equate to a shining review and, quite frankly, the future is only about a mild squint’s bright in Corvallis. Craig Robinson is once again telling us his team is dedicated to the defensive end (more later).
Why I love them: And who doesn’t like bigs? I’m 6’5″ and always get picked up at open gym. In the Pac-12, 6’5″ isn’t going to get you much beyond a shooting guard and in my case an assistant associate to the video coordinator’s assistant. But enough about me. OSU touts Eric Moreland (9/11), Devon Collier (13/6), and Angus Brandt (12/9 before busting his knee). Each is greater than 6’8″ and is going to be further supplemented by the playing time of 6’9″ Oakhill Academy product, Daniel Gomis. This kid is 2010 and has been at OSU since that time with nary a minute played. Additionally, you have to like Roberto Nelson (guard) because he looks like Drake.
Why I hate them: Last season the Beavers committed to man-to-man defense and promptly posted a 101.1 AdjD – good for 167th in the nation and last in the conference. They also placed last in the Pac and so it makes good sense that Robinson sees a need for further commitment to that side of the ball. Moreland – who is suspended for 14 games of the season and a further reason to dislike their prospects – was one of their better defensive players; snatching boards at the fifth highest rate in America (27.5%) and blocking 2.5 shots per contest. Robinson called him irreplaceable despite needing to replace him. At pachoops, we call that an “unenviable, self-inflicted predicament.” Of a similar self-inflicted vein is Beer League basketball players. Robinson previously felt his senior leader, Nelson, was in All-Beer League shape. He’s since sung Nelson’s praises for getting into shape, but earning that hoppy honor is an inauspicious start to a defensively oriented season.
Stat you should know:
Number of .500 or better seasons OSU has posted since 1992. Other popular things from 1992 include: The Dream Team, Aladdin, and the birth of Miley Ray Cyrus. It hasn’t been the greatest 2+ decades in Corvallis basketball.
“Don’t pooh‑pooh the All‑Beer League. I’ve been on some beer league teams, and we have beaten a lot of guys.” – Craig Robinson
Outlook: I won’t soon pooh-pooh the beer league – I had my first softball game on Monday in which I had to pitch after blowing up my ankle in beer league hoops – but I am going to pooh-pooh OSU’s defense. I can’t quite buy this team as contending for much better than 8th in the conference. Moreland’s absence isn’t helping things and neither is the fact that this is the strongest Pac-12 conference since Robinson joined the league.