Tag Archives: Jordan Loveridge

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Twelve Things To Watch: Revisiting Pac-12 Play

The season is freshly over. The moments shined and while we have a long ways until November – as well as a significant news cycle in the immediate future including: ASU coaching hunt, Ivan Rabb and the Cal(?) Five Stars, NCAA’s head of officiating change, NBA decisions.

But maybe we can take a second to reflect. In January, I noted 12 things to watch during this Pac-12 season, let’s revisit.

Reading instructions: The headlines are as written in January. The blurbs are today’s insights. 

1. The reintroduction of Jordan Loveridge

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Everything You Need to Know About Utah: What’s APL?

When it comes to knowing everything about the Utah Utes, it’s not wrong to note Delon Wright. And while that’s both short sighted and narrow, it’s not entirely inaccurate. He’s just really damn good. But after two double-negatives in nearly as many sentences, credit where credit is rightfully due: Larry Krystkowiak. In my estimation he’s the man with the plan and its come to near perfect execution. He built his program for the 2015 season (and most certainly beyond) and that’s exactly how things have played out.

So more about this team.

Delon is terrific but what else is going on? A 6’5″ point-combo-guard does not alone constitute the fifth most efficient defense in the country. He alone does not protect the rim at alarmingly elite – if not destructive – levels. He alone does not carry a Top-20 3FG% (he actually detracts from it). There are a lot of layers to this Utah onion. Let’s peel:

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Delon Wright Is Still Surprising Us

We know Delon Wright is really good and that he’s uniquely gifted at getting to the rim. Last year it was at insane levels as 62% of his offense was a layup or dunk attempt which he made 71% of the time. He exploded onto the scene and to the rim and we took notice.

Presumably, 2015 wasn’t going to surprise us. Last year he was a JuCo transfer, the kid brother of Dorrel. He could sneak up on you. Continue reading

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Twelve Things to Watch in Pac-12 Conference Play

We need something to look forward to. Conference play begins tonight and because while we stuffed ourselves with holiday cheer, the Pac was ballooning its RPI, distancing itself into relative obscurity. We know better. We know better and that’s why we’ve got twelve things to look forward to amongst so many other unlisted ones such as: When will Stanford have their big win? Their big loss? Can WSU climb out of the cellar? UCLA’s offense? USC’s offense? ASU? And yet still so much more.

Here’s just twelve things to look forward to as Pac-12 Conference play begins tonight:

1. The reintroduction of Jordan Loveridge

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DelonWright

Utah Utes Basketball Preview: Delon Rimttacking

You might not love it when your girlfriend, best friend, or really anyone around you over-plans. When they’ve buttoned up the schedule with everything dotted and crossed and you don’t have to do a thing but show up. It can sort of ruin the adventure. Larry Krystkowiak is not an adventurer. He took over this Utah program with a plan, a vision, for how he would build it up. He stuck to that plan and it’s now expected to pay off. Which is, of course, all a part of his plan. Look at the scheduling since he took over. The Utes played teams nicknamed the GeoDucks and a religious school out of San Diego which should be taken about as seriously as Hogwarts. We ripped them for their SoS while Larry K just stayed the course. And then last year happened and heads turned. Larry K has a plan, you guys. He scheduled the GeoDucks because that’s what his team could bear. Now? This year he’s taking his team to San Diego State, BYU, Las Vegas and Kansas. Delon Wright might be the best player in America if you listen to this guy and they have a crop of incoming kids that are not only good but local; a sign of sustainable and forthcoming success. And it’s all a part of the plan.

Why I Love Them:

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THREE FOR BART: Buckets, Utes, Dad

  1. Looking for a shotAnd here I find myself torn. Recruiting is beast of equal parts science, self-awareness, and bullshit. You’ve got to fill your program with the pieces that will most benefit your program, your style (that’s the science and self-awareness). The bullshit is everything else. I don’t really need to go into it. So what of a kid like this? Is he worth the risk? What kind of a shot does he deserve? If he doesn’t fit your system, don’t take this risk. If you don’t project him out to be successful, you’re not going to help him be successful. But success is relative. Someone’s going to give Ruggles a shot to make shots. I just hope they believe in what they’re doing. Continue reading
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Utah? Utah! Utah. And a Few Other Thoughts from Opening Night

A few months ago I asked Jordan Loveridge about his role on this Utes team. He said something about his growing role as a leader, but that might have only been because I lead him into it. He did talk about the conversations he’d been having with his coach about him becoming more of a leader before trailing off as teenagers in front of microphones tend to do.

But it was clear that Loveridge was being groomed to lead. On Thursday night he showed us he’s ready. Because leaders don’t always win but they do lead and Jordan took 23 shots in the losing effort. He took the last shot in regulation and the last shot in overtime. In a game ripe for Utah to slink away from, Loveridge scored 11 first half points. We are here to play.

And this could be the article where I tell you how close Jordan and the Utes were to knocking off #10 Oregon. I could yap about how hard the Utes played and that they really were in that oneThey can hold their heads high knowing they went toe-to-toe with a top-10 team. Then I’d call it a moral victory and we’d all roll our eyes. And agree.

Not gonna do it.

Not gonna do it because that’s not how the Utes feel about it. That’s not the way it looked and it’s not the walk away feeling on the matter. There was a Duck dog pile afterwards as dejected Utes shook the hands of the Oregon coaching staff. And such a celebration is not indicative of much beyond the fact that it was a fantastic finish; but it is telling to the necessary release after such a struggle. Oregon had lost that game. Utah had won it. And then the buzzer sounded and the score didn’t really say that. It was a terrific basketball game lost in seemingly the most inconceivable of ways.

Oregon is a good basketball team. They have some front court issues but enough talented and contributing guards that they’re always going to be a tough out. It’s worth noting that they showed plenty of toughness themselves.

This being a Utah-centric piece, however, let’s talk about those guys. They held two separate leads in two separate final minutes. That highlights the inconceivability of the loss. But whatever, losses happen and so do wins:

Because Larry K has weathered quite a storm in Utah to get to this point where we don’t have to call his team’s work cute. Or Cinderella. Or morally victorious. Because for all the talk of their bummer of a schedule, the Utes have been winning – something they haven’t done a ton of these past four seasons.

Leading to Thursday night, the Utes had been sticking to a high potent and effective offense. They’d relied on their leader – Loveridge – to lead (27% of the shots). Their model of 56% eFG shooting had won them eleven previous games. Unfortunately, the distance shooting let them down on Thursday: 3-19 ain’t gonna Duck it. They’d previously been shooting a nationally average 33% from three (for help, 3-19 is 15%). The final shot was a good Loveridge look that rimmed out.

But breaking this one down doesn’t tell us much. This was a basketball game featuring two teams scoring like Wilt: 90.8 ppg for Oregon; 87.4 for Utah. So naturally they played to the tune of 70-68. Collectively they barely broke 0.9 ppp. That was a dog fight.

What we learned from it:

  • Jordan Loveridge wants to be a star and so he is
  • Delon Wright is as talented as any guard in the conference and he carries himself like it
  • Utah is not soon going to sneak up on anyone
  • Bachynski is hereditary

It is a moral victory, though. We watched Utah play like they expected to win the whole time. Larry K was upbeat after the game not because he was giddy at how close his team came to winning but because he knows that his team now has  every reason to believe in themselves. Jordan Loveridge had talked about becoming a leader and Thursday night he showed us he can be. I like to be process oriented and we’ll learn a lot more about these Utes in how they react to this game. Should they lay an egg on Saturday, drop one to Oregon State, well we can start to make some different assumptions.

But a seemingly jovial K suggests he knows how his team will react. He expected that performance. He expected to win but he didn’t.

Sometimes that happens.

LarryKBigHead

AND NOW THE THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE’S OTHER FOUR GAMES:

  • Washington State scored .46 points per possession. Washington State scored .63 points per minute. Washington State put the ball through the basket 14 total times. Washington State scored one touchdown in the first half. All of this is to suggest that Washington State did not score. Arizona won. Contextually, Colorado State scored 18 points (matching WSU’s second half output in Tucson) in 2:52 at the New Mexico bowl [insert too soon BOOs here].
  • I suppose it wouldn’t be the start of conference play if we didn’t have a WTF moment. That’s what happened inside Wells Fargo as the conference’s worst defense naturally shut down ASU. The Huskies have been nothing short of pretty bad and they beat the Sun Devils handily. On the road. Makes total Pac-12 sense. They did this last year, too, jumping out to a 4-0 conference record, all outside Seattle. So I ask, upset alert in Tucson on Saturday?
  • And while all things Tempe were unexpected, there was something delightfully expected about a depleted Cal team going into Maples and beating Stanford. Because they don’t make sense. Cal won, Stanford disappointed and now let’s talk about Justin Cobbs step-back jumpers with the clock winding down. Maybe the most perfect shot in the game.
  • The return of Eric Moreland was the only game I missed and by many accounts I didn’t miss the most exciting of games. The talent level at Oregon State seems to be better than their record and trajectory indicates but such is the Craig Robinson era? Big tilt forthcoming on Sunday as we have our first top-20 matchup in the Pac-12 since Bill Walton liked UCLA!
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Utah is Playing Hard and is 9-1

For awhile I was hung up on Larry Krystkowiak’s comments from media day in which he called “playing hard” a talent. Sure he’s right and maybe it was just a ton of humble coach speak, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. But I understood the crux of what he was saying as he doesn’t have an Aaron Gordon, Jordan Adams, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Jahii Carson on his roster.

What he had was another brand new roster and seven new players to integrate around Jordan Loveridge. Who’s a fine player, but perhaps not immediately NBA-bound like the aforementioned. The Pac is talented.

But it’s mid-December and we find ourselves staring at a Utah team with but a single loss and an impressive holding of home court against a pretty good BYU team. That solitary loss was to Boise State on the road and late in the contest. They haven’t played the hardest schedule to be certain (ok, they’ve played the 3rd easiest schedule) so it becomes somewhat difficult to define this team. Are they talented? Are they playing hard? Are they the benefactors of playing Evergreen State, Grand Canyon, and St. Katherine (coming 12/28 to Huntsman)?

So how might we quantify this? Or, perhaps more directly asked, what’s going on?

I want to examine whether the Utes are playing hard. That’s how their coach has said they’re going to win games and without watching every minute of Runnin’ Ute hoop, I don’t really know where to start. And this is perhaps the crux of my issue with Larry K’s comments. Saying your team is good at playing hard doesn’t really mean anything.

In an effort to quantify, however, my initial hypothesis was such that the Utes perhaps are limiting shots at the rim; more effectively playing their defense and not allowing easy shots. As it were, they’re allowing more shots at the rim this season but doing a better job of contesting those. Teams are shooting just 56.7% there against the Utes and that’s well below the 60.9% D-1 average. They hold teams to the 19th lowest eFG% in the nation suggesting indeed these Utes are playing hard on defense. They lead the country in 2pt FG%. But ultimately those are just niceties.

Offensively they’ve got the 8th highest eFG% (58.3%). They shoot 77.7% from the rim and Delon Wright has been fantastic. The guard is taking nearly 70% of his shots at the rim and is making a stupid 83% of those shots(compare that to Jordan Loveridge’s 32% shots at the rim which is a bit mystifying but he still seems to be getting his; handily leading the team in usage) and putting up a talented 16/7/6. He’s been a delightful back court, transfer surprise for K and seems to have really allowed Loveridge to thrive as the primary scoring option all over the court, not just on the blocks. Now I’d love to see Jordan taking fewer threes. He’s a thicky thick body taking 40.8% of his shots from distance and making 31.4% of them. A season ago he was jacking up just 27.7% and making 36.8% of them. I like the latter stats for sustainability reasons; but it’s hard to argue against a guy with a 118.7 ORtg on team with a top-10 eFG. The Utes are doing something right and Loveridge just won Utah’s first ever Pac-12 Player of the Week Award.

But lots is still up in the air. Those are lovely numbers I’ve cited and that’s really about all I’ve done. While Larry K is seemingly quick to say his team isn’t the most talented, I have no qualms in saying they’re more talented than the aforementioned Geoducks, Antelopes, and Fightin’ Firebirds.

Looming large is the first conference game when the Ducks of Oregon come to Huntsman (Thursday, 1/2). This will undoubtedly be the Utes’ first big test and telling of just how “hard” this team plays. Looking at things long term, I’ll be curious to see where this budding program takes its scheduling. First tests shouldn’t come in conference play.

But that’s where we are today: staring at a 9-1 Utes team that I haven’t quite revealed anything about. There’s nothing too shocking in the numbers besides that they’ve beaten up on some cupcakes (to jog your memory it’s the 348th most difficult). But there is no denying that the Utes are 9-1. And when that left column keeps moving, you start to believe its supposed to move.

Here’s to playing hard.

AllenCrabbePOY

Egregiously Premature Pac-12 Player of the Year List

Oh you know it’s wildly early in the season and so we should judge every book by its cover, anoint a champion yesterday and fire all of the coaches. We can call this an egregious or just a Watch List. Semantics aside, here’s a little check-in on some of the conference’s best.

New-ish and very seriously in the conversation

Joseph Young – We knew that he was talented but the junior has been scintillating. I mean, his worst game has been a 12 point effort in which he still managed to piece together a 115 ORtg. Joe Young has been terrific and the Ducks are just five games away from getting better following Shoe-gate.

Jordan Loveridge – I mean no offense to Evergreen State but the Utah Utes have played absolutely no one. But SOS aside, Loveridge has been stat stuffing monster: 18 points, 12 boards, 3 assists, and a 129 ORtg. Sustainability will become the name of the game – along with whether he can do it against school’s not named after foliage.

Roberto Nelson – This Beaver has the third highest usage percentage in the nation at 39.1%. That means he’s putting up a shot four out of every ten Beaver possessions. That alone doesn’t say much beyond, perhaps, BALL HOG or duh-the-Beavers-needed-someone-to-jack-up-all-the-shots-after-Ahmad-Starks-transferred. But let’s note here what he’s doing with all those shots. His ORtg is 127.2 and his EFg is 55%. His turnover rate is sub-10% and he’s dishing assists at a top-40 clip (36.2%). The ball is in his hands and he’s doing nothing but good things. And he torched the Terps in College Park.

Chasson Randle – Long been a fan of this kid’s talent and was a little disappointed by his sophomore season. He cooled off in the shooting department, coming back down 44% shooting to 40%. He took more shots, however, and maintained his scoring average. This year, however, he’s shooting a blistering 52% and dropping 22 a game. The identity of this Cardinal team is still yet to be determined, but Randle seems to have his groove back.

The Usual Suspects

Jahii Carson – I’m not going to effuse here about how damn good this guy has been. He scored 40 points by making 14 layups. He’s 5’10”.

Kyle Anderson – Dude dropped a triple-double and is just thriving as a point guard. Slow-mo is every bit the unique talent we thought he was. His shot still hasn’t quite come around (20% from distance, 63% from the line) but that doesn’t always matter when you’re doing everything else on the basketball floor.

Jordan Adams – I think he might be my favorite player in the Pac-12. He’s just so smooth out there and he hasn’t missed a beat since last season when he unglamorously played thrived in the shadow of Shabazz. And when I say smooth, I mean he’s getting everything done. He’s the owner (producer?) of a top-100 ORtg, eFG%, and TS%. And because I just love the traditional stats, there’s this: 22ppg, 5rpg, 2apg, 3spg, 56% FG, 46% 3FG, 87% FT. Oh Jordan.

CJ Wilcox

 Great players who won’t win the POY award
Aaron Gordon – He very well could be the best player in the conference but by way of the system he’s in and the talent around him, I don’t think he’s going to shine the way a POY tends to shine. Or needs to shine. He’ll get oodles of hoopla to be sure, but he might be out produced on his own team by Nick Johnson. Or Brandon Ashley.
Justin Cobbs – Fantastic player. Love his talents. But Monty has put together some additional skills around him that are allowing Justin to be a facilitator as opposed to threat and while this bodes well for the Bears’ ceiling, it isn’t doing him and POY favors. But who cares so long as you’re filling up the left column. His usage is down to just 17% compared to 23.1% last year. But his ARate has jumped to an outstanding 39%, translating to 6.3 dimes a night.
Time will tell
Spencer Dinwiddie – Few are going to question his talents. He’s great, but thus far he’s pretty much mimicked his output from last year. This is by no stretch a BAD thing but if he didn’t win POY last year, then having the same year would suggest he ain’t winning it this year.
Dwight Powell – Similarly to Dinwiddie, Powell is producing the same numbers from last season. In this year of thinking differently Dwight is playing the same aside from one key stat: Free throws. He’s shooting and making fewer of them (down to 57% FT from 80% last year) and the Cardinal have looked…mediocre?
Jan 24, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Stanford Cardinal forward Dwight Powell (33) drives past Colorado Buffaloes forward Andre Roberson (21) in the second half of the game at the Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Cardinal 75-54. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking the Pac-12 front courts

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. WSU – Uhhhhh. They have their full allotment of scholarship athletes?