Connor Pelton is a long time friend of the program. I use the term colloquially because I don’t really know how long he’s befriended PacHoops. What I do know, however, is that Connor is a helluva Rush the Court contributor, a House of Sparky staple, and a lifelong Beaver. So with the latter (lattermost?) of Connor’s areas of expertise headed to the McKale Center, I thought we’d let CP scratch the curiosity itch.
The First Program is in a critical year. CRob hasn’t filled lofty expectations but he has delivered the school’s first winning season since what feels like the Lincoln administration. Some good pieces there in Corvallis. Smile.
Oh Come On – Half the questions asked of Craig Robinson at Media Day were surrounding last Tuesday (hint: election night). Well Barack Obama (aka Robinson’s brother-in-law) was re-elected President and that’s got to make this program happy.
Hearts Out – It’s what Roberto Nelson did according to George Dohrmann in his book, Play Their Hearts Out, and he’ll need to continue to do so for the Beavers to have any success this season.
Wee Man – Ahmad Starks ain’t big. He’s listed at 5’9” on the school’s website and if you’ve ever been a part of filling out an info sheet, you know that listed height and weight is inflated. Irrelevant. He can play. Coach Robinson says that he alone could replace Jared Cunningham’s 18ppg but they won’t necessarily need that of him. He’ll play a very sound point for OSU.
Vazannion – Not sure who will be under center but, come on, you know you’re a little pumped for the Civil War.
Timber – Robinson has called this his “best front court” since arriving in Corvallis. Let’s discuss: Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Joe Burton, Daniel Jones, and a slew of sizable newbies. There’s experience and versatility there and my-oh-my does Collier have a chance to break out this year. DYK he quietly went for 14/6 last year? Solid.
Can’t Get Enough – He’s gone and this was two years ago but it’s still dirty
Awhile back we examined how the relevant (read: not ASU, USC, or Utah) Pac-12 teams paralleled the Oscar Nominees for Best Picture. Last night, The Artist, won the award.
This was the film that I felt most closely paralleled the Oregon State Beavers and so we can now conclude that A) these analogies were not based on odds of winning, and B) in revisiting that post, Brad’s rant on War Horse was nothing short of remarkable. However, with things still highly questionable regarding the POY race, could The Artist’s Jean Dujardin’s claiming of the Best Actor award be foreboding for Jared Cunningham?
The weekend of yawnable must-wins turned into something of an edge-of-your-seater as teams began realizing that this thing is really coming down to the wire. That, or the teams out of the race were pissed off enough to finally do something about their abysmal seasons. Your pick, there were some doozies.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Washington stands alone in first place so this one’s undebatable. They overcame a 13-point defect in the second half of their road Apple Cup victory and some questionable coach from Ken Bone, but – and this has been a theme of late – they won. That’s all that matters this time of year, just ask Cal. The Huskies have themselves poised to win the school’s twentieth regular season crown – their second since 1985 – but not without some work to do. The leaders head to Los Angeles to tackle a UCLA team that – while closing a mess of a season – had the Huskies all but beat until Terrence Ross took over the final few minutes. And this time it’ll be on the ever challenging road, a place Romar etc. have historically struggled to win the big ones.
Game of the Weekend: There were some tight ball games this weekend. Saturday and Sunday’s games had an average margin of victory of four points. Tightballgamesindeed. Good stuff for a whole bunch of games with little surface intrigue but heavy tournament and title implications. In our Preview, we said the GotW would be Colorado and California in a title tilt; a huge game for the Buffs in which they could “catapult themselves into contention for a conference title.” Well, that game was indeed huge for the Buffs and they came out guns blazing and won big. But, as they say, “when you assume you make and ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me'” so we must also revisit the fact that I wrote, “Assuming Colorado beats Stanford tonight.” An ass I am. Getting back to what was arguably the best game of the weekend from an entertainment standpoint, I’m giving that nod to the oldest rivalry in college sports: The Civil War. In a must wins for the Ducks, Garret Sim scored a career high 25 points as Oregon won on the road by just one. Oregon State used a late rally to cut the Duck lead to three when they had the ball and 9 ticks remaining. They got a good look at a three that resulted in a tip-dunk and subsequent one-point loss. My favorite for POY, DeVoe Joseph, added sixteen points and is averaging 17.1 points per conference game (Jorge: 13.3 ppCg, Ross: 15.3 ppCg, Wroten: 16.7 ppCg).
The Big Loser: Easy. The Stanford Cardinal lost to the Utah Utes of 260 RPI, 301 KenPom, and 296 Sagarin-lore. The worst team amongst the BCS conferences beat Stanford. Doesn’t matter to me that they handled Colorado. You don’t lose to teams that are that bad. You just cannot. I’m struggling with words, to make an analogy so I give you this:
What We Learned: The teams with a chance to dance are getting drum tight. As I said previously, UW needed to overcome a 13-point defect, Cal got straight up beat, Arizona and Oregon won despite doing everything they could to do otherwise, and Colorado was rolled at home. Loosen up fellas! You’ll play better. So let’s take a look at what’s left to go for each of the “contenders,” or teams with a fighting chance of finishing in the top-4.
Washington, 13-3: The Huskies will travel to LA and have already guaranteed themselves a top-4 finish. Assuming (yeah, I said it again!) they beat USC, they’re guaranteed a top-2 finish. In short, UW is sitting pretty with a great opportunity to be champs. Right??
California, 13-4: What happened in Boulder? Anyhow, it happened and Cal likely cost themselves a conference title. Now they’ll head south to close in The Big Game at Stanford. And who knows what’s going on in with that Dawkins squad? But this is about Monty’s veteran-ish squad with dwindling careers in a rivalry game. I like Cal’s chances, but at this point it’s to finish in second. They do hold the tie-breaker over Washington, however.
Arizona, 12-5: One to play and it’s in Tempe against the lowly Sun Devils. A win and the Wildcats are guaranteed a fourth-place-or-better finish and, in all likelihood, are dancing. If that doesn’t scream “trap game” I don’t know what does.
Oregon/Colorado, 11-5: I’ve lumped these two together because they’ll have the opportunity to control their respective fates head-to-head Thursday night (SPOILER: I will be calling this the Week 10 GotW). Last time these two faced off, it came down to the wire as Nate Tomlinson won it with a free throw in the final seconds. Will Oregon get sweet revenge? Or will the Buffs get that coveted first (big) road victory in the nick of time? Then of course there’s still the Saturday games. No asses here.
Early Week YouTuber: As the season is quickly coming to a close, we always wonder what it would be like if just a few things were different. What if just one more shot had fallen for Arizona against Colorado, Oregon, or Washington? What if Cal doesn’t drop the ball against OSU and WSU? Or Colorado closes out Cal in Berkeley? These events didn’t happen and this isn’t what a bar scene usually looks like. But what if?
This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ, produces some great podcasts, knows Arizona sports inside-and-out, and votes for the Heisman.
Once again the home teams – for the most part – won for the locals and moved the Pac-12 season along at an unshocking pace. There was a fight but then a bunch of uncompetitive blowouts. So much for parody. Until of course next Thursday rolls around and once again anything can happen. Stay tuned to your local Root TV network.
Here is one thing to keep in mind as your squad battles along: the top four finishers in the conference receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. A small but potentially dance inducing fact in this lesser conference year. The weekend:
Leader in the Clubhouse: Sure, Cal and Stanford sit atop the conference at 5-1 each and Washington – despite seemingly no consistency – is 4-1. But this weekend may have proven that the Oregon Ducks are for real. Their sweep of the Arizona schools was the most impressive feat of the weekend, befitting the team du jour title. At 4-2, Dana Altman’s team has lost only to Washington and Cal and is about to host three straight, winnable games (the LA schools followed by OSU). If Devoe Joseph can continue piecing together his dark horse POY candidacy, Eugene could wind up playing host to both the football and basketball conference titles. And with toughness above talent likely the key to winning this talent thin conference, Dana’s Ducks may be on to something as the only team with three road victories. I won’t go so far as to call this group favorites, but they’re a far more intriguing team than the previous flavor of the week, Colorado, and certainly tougher than the road weary Washington Huskies. My advice? Don’t sleep on the Ducks.
Game of the Weekend: Two desperate teams – Arizona seeking its identity, OSU just a win – needed extra time and some restraints to figure things out. The game culminated in a shoving match after Kyle Fogg was lightly fouled by Jared Cunningham and Fogg felt obligated to let Cunningham know he had also made the basket. Beyond that, it was a thrilling Arizona victory; a game in which Brendon Lavender – a 10.6 minutes per game type player – needed to shoot 5-6 from three-point range for the Wildcats to even have a chance. It was the Beavers second straight OT game, this one following their four-OT loss to Stanford. OSU continues to be a mystery after entering conference play as an intriguing two-loss team. They now find themselves 1-5 with losses to ASU and WSU and as the only team to beat Cal (handily at that). Confounding indeed.
The Big Loser: As previously mentioned, winning the 2012 conference title is going to take some toughness. And by toughness I don’t mean shoving matches when you’ve already wrapped up the game. By toughness, I don’t mean finding yourself down 17 at home before you decide to play defense. So, who showed the least toughness this weekend? The Arizona Wildcats. Their melee showed glaring insecurities and their loss to Oregon showed gross passivism. Sean Miller’s group continues to play sans identity and it looks as if everyone’s waiting around for someone else to do something about it. Most telling of Arizona’s woes has been their reliance on the three ball. The Wildcats fired up 39 long balls this weekend and have shot the most in the conference and 89th most in the nation. For no better way to put it, that’s mid-major territory and not where Arizona wants to be. The Wildcats will need to answer some questions quickly as they head into a difficult three week stretch of games.
What we learned: This conference is starting to take shape. There’s an elite class (Cal, Stanford); an OK-I-see-you class (Washington, Oregon); a work-yet-to-do class (Arizona, UCLA, Colorado); a whose-season-can-we-ruin class (WSU, OSU); and then there’s ASU, USC, and Utah. While Oregon may have shown the most toughness, Washington isn’t going to fade away that fast and Terrence Ross isn’t about to forget how to hoop (30 and 14 this weekend). Cal won a game (home against Colorado) that they had almost no business winning but still managed to; it was championship stuff. Because much of the weekend followed suit, there weren’t necessarily amy outliers by which to make conclusions. Josh Smith didn’t have a particularly big game (6pts, 5rbs) but then again he didn’t need to. Tony Wroten still didn’t hit his free throws (7-13); Brock Motum remains a dark horse conference POY (17/2/2); and ASU got better with less (Trent Lockett left the game with an injury). It is worth mentioning that just because Colorado was blown out by Stanford, it is not an indication of the direction of their season. Their performance at Cal was sufficient to say this group is real and essentially legitimizes the ski schools as a trip not to be taken lightly.
Early Week YouTuber: OK, so there wasn’t much exciting going down on the court in the Cities of the Pac. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen elsewhere:
A puzzling Arizona season manifested itself in the closing moments of the Wildcats’ overtime win against Oregon State.
The scuffle was instigated by an aggressive and agitated Kyle Fogg who quickly backed off and disappeared from the melee. It was then propagated by Solomon Hill who demonstrated the most interest in the bout but was ultimately a non-factor. Others attempted to make their way into the shoving match, but were unable to make an impact. Then, when the dust settled, it was Kyryl Natyazhko who was ejected.
Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the 44 minutes of basketball leading up to the events on the baseline? Perhaps the UCLA game? SDSU, Gonzaga, or Mississippi State?
Much has been made of this team’s lack of a go-to player and the Oregon State game confirmed that the 2011-12 Wildcats do not have one. There are some talented pieces to Sean Miller’s roster but no one individual can be consistently relied upon.
Perhaps this group is playing with the ghost of Derrick Williams; waiting for their knight in shining armor to bail them out of anyandeverycircumstance. The vicious forward undoubtedly played the go-to role and it was going to be difficult to replace him regardless of how good Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, and the rest of the freshman class were. Attack was his default mode and it showed as he led an underwhelming Arizona team to the Elite Eight. And while having a go-to player is not imperative, it’s certainly an advantage and a pressure release for a team’s perhaps less talented players.
But Arizona’s victory confirmed another thing about these Wildcats: the sum can be greater than the parts.
On Thursday, it was Brendon Lavender, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half of the critical home win; supplementing the efforts of his teammates. Before that, Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry, Hill, Fogg, and Johnson have each played the lead but not without significant other contributions. There certainly have been flashes of individual brilliance amongst this group, a positive indication that this team can do things.
But the ultimate success of this group will be their ability to overcome a lack of nightly individual output and play significant team basketball; particularly in a season featuring lineups centered by the 6’6” Kevin Parrom and absent of a scorer in the teens. The team ability and concept are there, the consistency is yet to come. Coach Miller called the Oregon State victory the “best game of the season.”
And at this critical juncture in the Wildcats’ season, the Wildcats could be gelling at just the right time.
With their toughest games yet to come, Arizona still controls their tournament destiny. To ensure they’re indeed dancing, the ‘Cats will have to continue to shake the ghost of Williams and continue to improve as a team. Growing on their “best game of the season.”
When Kyle Fogg chirped at Jared Cunningham and Solomon Hill jumped into the raucous and Kyryl Natyazkho was ejected, some individual faults may have been exposed. But look more closely and you’ll notice it was sixteen Wildcats the Beavers had to deal with.
Conference play is here and while there are many legitimate basketball related things to watch for – like games and such – here are some under-the-radar stories to keep an eye on. Enjoy.
Is Utah going to be biblically bad? Sure, the eyeball test tells us that the Utes are bad. As do the RPI rankings, scoreboards, statistics, and probably Krystkowiak himself. But isn’t that the fun of it? While we all root of eternal greatness, why can’t we eagerly anticipate a defeated season – in fact the second since 2008 (Oregon State). The Utes could be biblically bad but unfortunately so too is the conference, lessening the odds of an oh-for-eighteener. But hey, like that little kid in Angels in the Outfield kept saying, “It could happen!”
Will Kevin O’Neill try to fight another booster? With all eyes on Matt Barkley, Lane Kiffin, and the now uninhibited Trojan football program, will KO go buck wild and fight anyone he wants? Odds are against it but again, we’re talking about this guy. A good quote and a coach who can get a lot out of his players, he does tend to leave a trail of destruction in his path. I recommend not getting in his way but then again, he probably stands to lose a lot more than you.
Joe Burton – Josh Smith: The Big-off Read the following in your best Michael Buffer voice: in the Los Angeles corner, standing six-feet, ten-inches tall, and a soft three hundred and ten pounds…JOSH SMITH. From the Corvalis corner, a six-feet, seven-inch two-hundred and eighty pound baby face, Joeeeeeeee Burton! These two, hefty as they may be, manage to toss around the weight for good. Smith is still looking to find some semblance of conditioning and when he does he’s capable of big things. Burton has been a serviceable center, capable of putting up formidable numbers while also playing a facilitators role in Craig Robinson’s Princeton offense (3.8 apg). These two will rumble off just once this season, January 19 in Corvalis.
Will Sean Miller clear whatever is in his throat? If you’ve ever watched Miller patrol the sidelines, you know he’s a pretty fiery dude. That said, he also is constantly hacking and coughing away, an assumed attempt to clear his throat. With another edge-of-your-seat-this-ain’t-gonna-be-easy type season in Tucson, Miller no doubt needs all of his voice to convey his message to the youthful Wildcats. Perhaps try some lozenges, Coach?
Will Ken Bone finally be caught by the headless horseman? Ichabod. Ken. Ken. Ichabod. Discuss.
Who will be the first to posterize someone? The hoppy Nick Johnson?