Tag Archives: Mike Moser

Three Pac-12 Teams Are So Sweet

Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?

General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.

mcdermott1This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.

And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.


#1 Arizona Wildcats

You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:

“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”

#4 UCLA Bruins

I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.ASU-bench-reaction-to-loss-to-Texas-720x375

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: 


#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.

Week 10 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I’ve been pumping this “weird things in March” dialogue because it’s pretty central to why we’re such big fans of college basketball. We watch this month through a different lens with even the minutiae dramatized. But Saturday did happen. A regular season finale that saw two overtime games, the Bay schools win by a combined two points, #3 go down, and a good old fashioned whooping in the Palouse (hint: UCLA scored 55 points). Prior to that day I was pretty caught up in the sudden winning ways of road teams. A deviation from the Pac-12’s norm. So naturally Saturday saw a home sweep but not without the aforementioned drama and March. Don’t you love it? And don’t you hate Daylight Savings?

Leader in the Clubhouse: I’ll take this thing back to the hottest team model in order to effuse on the run the Oregon Ducks are on. They were dead. Essentially written off, lingering only because at one point they were ranked tenth in the nation and their collapse was a fun fact you could toss around with other topsy turvy teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State. But then they won one. And another. And another. And now it’s seven straight including a road win at UCLA and the biggest win of their season, Arizona. The Oregon Ducks will be in the NCAA tournament. They’re playing their best ball of the season right now and are only the seventh team to ever hit 10-or-more threes against a Sean Miller, Arizona team. The Ducks make threes at an elite level (38.9% 3FG% is 25th best in the nation and Calliste and Young have made 125 total threes at a combined 45% clip. wow) which has led me to call them a “Mid-major with a budget.” Living and dying by the three is a tried and true method to winning games and certainly tournament success. During their seven game win streak, the Ducks are shooting 44% from distance. Of course mixing in some defense doesn’t hurt. And by some I really mean a literally just a little. Their defense over this seven game win streak has been actually worse than their season average. The Ducks’ season long defensive efficiency is 99.6. During this streak it’s 101.8. The thing to note, however, is 101 is better than the 119 efficiency they posted during their previous 5 game losing streak. All of that said, and however they’re doing it, they’ve collected seven straight of my favorite stat as we head into the post-season. The portion of the year where the only choice is to streak.

Biggest Loser: Vegas is set. The seedings are done and games will soon commence. I don’t really have the need to pick a biggest loser because upon commencement of said games, everyone has an equal shot. Clean slate. Unless of course:

Tough. Sometimes the narratives write themselves.

What We Learned: It’s over. Beds have been made and teams are now sleeping in them. Some more comfortably than others but there are now 108 games in the rearview mirror and it looks something like this:Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 6.17.51 PM

In Defense Of: My prediction of seven Pac-12 teams in the NCAA tournament. As we headed into Saturday’s slate, my prediction looked shaky. I wasn’t sure things would or could play out in the necessary fashion for everyone to survive the bubble. We are, of course, a week away from Selection Sunday when predictions of invitations will no longer be relevant. But as we sit today – with Colorado showing well in the Bay, Cal and Stanford narrowly avoiding sweeps, and Oregon beating Arizona – the Pac is a very real candidate to see more than half its members dancing. Now I certainly felt it would be a more convincing seven teams when I made this guess four months ago. But, as noted, this is how they’ve made their beds.

The YouTuber: Let’s just blame it all, everything.

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?

Week 10 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

Larry and the Pac-12 powers thought they could sneak one past us with a Tuesday night tip between ASU and Oregon. But we’re too clever for that. Of course we’d rather watch this than any of the six, top-25 match ups tonight; catch up on GIRLS, True Detective, or House of Cards; or go on a Tinder date. March is for college basketball so give us college basketball. But here’s a little soapbox on hypocrisy while I get a little hypocritical. This game we love is buried deep in corporate greed and capitalism. That’s why ASU will play in Eugene on Tuesday despite the NCAA’s proclaimed protection and empowerment of the “student-athlete.” The Sun Devils will be in Oregon from Tuesday to Saturday – at the shortest – missing essentially the entire week of classes leading up to…spring break…which naturally will be spent in Las Vegas. The Devil’s are going to miss an entire week of classes for our entertainment and while I’m appreciative of that and excited for all this March hoop, I also recognize the hypocrisy of the system. But it is the final week of the season so…

GotW: Any game that might have tournament or Vegas seeding implications. Which is to say any game that involves a team that, as of publish, has 7 or 8 losses. Which is to say that eight of the twelve games this weekend have NCAA tournament implications. It is March after all. Furthermore, a top-4 finish is a coveted spot with Vegas right around the corner. That earns you a first round bye, one fewer game to potentially lose to the likes of USC (Cal) or Washington State (Washington and Utah). Cal is hosting for their tournament lives this weekend and Stanford could be, too. Oregon has rattled off an impressive five game win streak and has themselves primed for an invitation after being left for dead just 3 weeks ago. Colorado? With that question asked, the feeling that I must pick one GAME of the Week, and a March flair for the dramatic, we could see Saturdays’ penultimate Pac-12 regular season game (UCLA @ WSU closes this thing out) featuring Colorado in Berkeley as the GotW. Pending the mid-week results, this could be a battle royal for a spot in the dance.

Game to Avoid: If we’ve technically got eight games of the week then is it really that tall of an order to suggest we ignore the only other four games? Of course it is! This is March basketball. Almost nothing is worth ignoring except for Thursday’s game between USC and Washington State. What do you want me to say here? These are the last two teams in the conference and have combined for three conference wins. Watching this game could be more difficult than getting a deal done with the Chinese (#TeamUnderwood).

Something to Prove: Two games, with arguably a jaunt in Las Vegas, for the Oregon Ducks to prove to the committee that they deserve an invite. Which is a really interesting position considering all of the work they’ve done to prove otherwise. Alas, they swept Los Angeles and are riding the aforementioned momentum of 5 straight wins. According to Bracket Matrix, they’re back in the mix. Of the 68 brackets aggregated, 66 include the Ducks. And of course with great power comes great responsibility. The power in this equation is the guests. Arizona and ASU pose the toughest travel tandem, the perfect opportunity to solidify a resume. The responsibility, however, lies in the ownership of their own destiny. They earned that right by running through their non-conference slate  and rattling off their last five. They are responsible for their own tournament invitation. A challenge to force the committee to keep them out. Also, Mike Moser is en fuego. He’s averaging 17.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg during this five game win streak.

Something to Lose: After discussing Oregon’s place amongst things, let’s now take a look at Cal. According to the aforementioned Bracket Matrix they are in 63 of the 68 brackets which is still good but far from a guarantee. But it suggests they’re dancing, right? Which further suggests they’ve got something lose. And lose they have. Let’s look at Cal’s win percentage over the conference season vs. the Ducks:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 7.56.10 PM

Someone’s trending up and someone’s trending down. The Ski schools will be in the Bay (I’m going to try and make it over to Boulder on Saturday) and pose a significant threat to whatever chance the Bears have in maintaining their spot at the ball. Because how ‘hot’ a team is plays into the judgement of the committee and Cal certainly ain’t hot.

The YouTouber: “You blew a wide open layup.” Gold.

WANE: Home from the Road

We returned from Colorado no worse for the wear and our favorite team had won. Boulder was a great trip and if you want the non-WANE tales let’s meet at another one of the Pac-12’s great locales and discuss it. Nevertheless, this week Spencer and I dive into the bubble and a lot of hypotheticals and awkward prognostication.


The Table:

1:05: Spencer gives the built in mic everything it can handle as we begin to talk about the Colorado Trip.

1:50: We briefly discuss the utopian Cats game
2:30: Best Cats performance since Duke 2011?
3:05: Adam discusses the critical stretch of the game with Zeus, Gordon and RHJ in foul trouble
4:40: Xavier who?
5:45: We discuss the Coors Event Center as a venue and how to correctly deal with “U-of-A” from visitors.
8:00: As promised, a link to the podcast where we discuss the league’s toughest road trips
8:40: Cats’ road fever
9:00: Bubble Watch time: Colorado and its at-large profile
9:30: Spencer’s roommate Tyler is brought in for brief analysis and then quickly dismissed. That guy sucks.
10:50: Just who are these 2013-2014 Oregon Ducks?
13:30: first use of the phrase “I ponder you this…”, followed by mumbled nonsense.
14:50: Utah, the best team in the country that has ZERO chance of an at-large bid?
15:35: Which Pac-12 team(s) currently projected in the field is most vulnerable?
17:35: House Money!
18:50: Adam is an underground celebrity within the Pac-12 footprint.
19:30: We admit, UCLA’s beat down Cal at Haas was as impressive as Arizona over Colorado
21:20: One of the drawbacks of recording in the common area of a cramped apartment is hearing the clambering of kitchen supplies.
22:10: Just how good is UCLA and what tournament seed can they achieve?
23:25: Another link to that podcast where we rank Pac-12 road trips
24:00: Weekend preview begins with a debate of how to properly label the Colorado-Utah “rivalry”.
25:00: We can’t stress this enough, every Pac-12 fan should take note of what Larry K is building in SLC.
26:10: All eyes on the state of Arizona this week.
27:55: Please pardon our “slow-browserage
28:15: Spencer is 1-for-1 for on-air guarantees in the brief history of WANE
29:00: Pac-12 athletes, we would be happy to host you.
29:45: Assuming Arizona doesn’t lose this weekend, someone else is going to get swept. Spencer and Adam differ on who that team is.
30:20: That retched shit Tyler returns to select the winner of our marketing campaign.
31:50: We have a winner!
33:05: All Pac-12 fans should travel more. Do it.

Week 8 Pac-12 Hoops Review

If I was the selection committee of college basketball road trips I’d give the Pac-12 the number one overall seed and then anoint them the champion and let everyone else battle it out. How many other conferences offer Gameday worthy basketball and Olympic worthy skiing in the same weekend? The Pac-12 is a destination. Good weekend.

Leader in the Clubhouse: Just as UCLA was creeping into things and Colorado had rattled off four in a row and ASU knocked Arizona seemingly down a peg, the Wildcats went ahead and flexed everything, destroyed Colorado by 27 on the road and shot 60% in doing such (the highest FG% allowed by CU since 12/22/2010). Their defense was its standard great self, limiting the Buffs to 32% shooting. Colorado didn’t garner a FG for the game’s first 10:07. Meanwhile, UCLA lost at Stanford and ASU won nothing and Colorado was on the wrong end of red Saturday night. But this section is less about others and all about the Wildcats. There are but two weekends remaining and they’ve built themselves a two game lead and could clinch this week. The team’s first goal of the season has been to win a Pac-12 regular season title and sweeping the Ski Schools was a huge step in moving towards that goal. And that’s just the numbers of it. Because those other teams were sneaking into the conversation and because it looked as if the Wildcats were reeling. After beating Utah in overtime on Wednesday, Sean Miller felt that just getting the win would be good for his team’s psyche. Then Saturday night happened and it was as if the Wildcats were reminding everyone exactly who they were: the best team in the country.

Biggest Loser: I’ll struggle to note that ASU was the biggest loser because winning on the road is a very difficult task. Last week we noted Stanford was our BL but it wasn’t really a fitting title for them. This section, however, is beginning to take the form of a power ranking where I’m not soon to rain on a cellar dweller but rather note the team that did the least to A) Impress us, B) Improve their NCAA tournament chances. If we’re taking that approach to dolling out this recognition, ASU would seem to fit the bill. Their three headed monster (Bachynski, Marshall, and Carson) combined to shoot 27% for the weekend (17-62). That’s not a recipe for dancing. Moving forward, expect to hear a lot of talk about that Arizona win when you hear about the Devils’ resume.

What we Learned: We certainly confirmed once again that winning on the road is difficult but we’d learned that a long time ago. So for the second week in a row I’m struggling to realize what it is we might’ve learned we’re 8 weeks into the conference season and nearly four months into the whole damn thing. It’s hard to recognize any new truths. But then, this morning, I saw this tweet and I realized we did have something to learn:

Utah has sustained heartbreaker after heartbreaker. The luck thing (again) but I keep expecting to see this team finally fold. They give Arizona everything they can and more – are a missed free throw away from knocking them off – yet come up short. In some regards it would be excusable for them to collapse. At any moment. They don’t and they haven’t and Larry K has a lot to do with that. After barely eclipsing 50 regulation points on Wednesday the Utes quickly dispelled any semblance of a let down and double up ASU, 51-26, in the first half. That’s an impressive level of maturity, discipline, and focus befit a team possibly capable of a Pac-12 tournament run:

But I’ve also got to make note of this so that it’s on the record: Oregon. That might be all I have to say about that but the Ducks are looming in the 35-45 RPI range (sweet bubble) and still have games against UCLA, AZ, and ASU remaining. They are the winners of three straight and Mike Moser scored 41 points this weekend. So what I’m saying is that I’m just saying: Oregon. Also, Stanford. Third in the conference, winners of three straight, and playing like the group of seniors that realizes they’re seniors. That said, should the Cardinal finish third in the conference with a sound 12-6 record, is Chasson Randle (18/4/2) a POY candidate?

In Defense of: I need an excuse to mention TJ McConnell’s weekend. Because so often, as the calendar turns to this time of year and the games turn to CBS, the importance of guard play gets magnified. They have the ball most regularly and there’s a reason TO% is a part of the Four Factors. Now allow me to show you what TJ did this weekend in a pair of critical road games with his team seemingly in a tailspin and the conference’s top spot on the line:

20 points, 16 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 wins

His running mate, Nick Johnson, also added 35 points on the weekend but McConnell’s play – I mean ZERO turnovers – was the stuff of special. It’s long been said what a critical piece he is to the Arizona puzzle and this weekend may have been the greatest example of just that.

Also, quick defense of UCLA. They stomped all over Cal on Wednesday and it was equally as impressive as Arizona’s win at Colorado. Haas was loud and ready for that game and the Bruins did as they pleased from wire-to-wire. They lost on Saturday but such is travel. UCLA is still a very good, very scary team.

The YouTuber: Oldie but a goodie and if you haven’t ever seen it, you’re welcome:

On the Oregon Ducks’ Lack of Defense

For some time now I’ve speculated about the Oregon Ducks’ defense. I’ve had my concerns about it but I was having a difficult time picking on a team that was 13-0. I also couldn’t pinpoint the issue. If any at all. Perhaps I need to up my criticism game? But since winning their lucky thirteenth, the Ducks have stopped exactly no one from scoring.

Without the advantage of having watched a ton of Oregon basketball and with the advantages of having a social life and a highly analytical mind (which behooves me in sports and torments me in dating), I’ve come to the following conclusion about Oregon’s defense: they’re the perfect storm of bad. I’ll explain.

On Dana Altman’s roster, there are just a shade under two million guards. Loyd, Artis, Joseph, Calliste, and Dotson make up one of the most formidable back courts I’ve ever heard of. Offensively that is. Otherwise they’re a group contributing to the nation’s 152nd best defense. My assumption has been that the guards aren’t carrying their weight considering four of their top five players in terms of %min are guards. So I don’t think they’ve done their light front court any favors.

I’ll begin anecdotally and tell you that, certainly in their conference games, this perimeter group hasn’t done much to limit dribble penetration. It’s what my Buffalo friends told me. My Cal friends told me it had to do with an inability to protect the paint. Even my Oregon compatriots confirmed.

Porous perimeter defense theory confirmed anecdotally? Check.

Jim-Halpert-Sarcastic-Fist-PumpBut anecdotal tales of a perimeter defense lost at sea aren’t going to cut it here. This is PacHoops and while I talk to some of the most brilliant and trusted minds in Conference of Champion theory – seriously, my g-chat windows are to Pac-12 thought what Cafe Trieste was to the Beatniks – we need more than perception. This is some Ginsberg, Kerouac shit.

Let me begin by saying we’re going to go ahead and agree and assume that Oregon’s front court is already not the best defensively. They’re undersized and undermanned with Mike Moser (6’8″) and Richard Amardi (6’8″) getting the lion’s share of big man tick. Size doesn’t dictate defensive prowess but sometimes being the 11th worst defensive rebounding team in the conference (and 230th worst in the nation) while combining to commit more than 11 fouls per forty minutes can support that assumption. Ben Carter was expected to have a bit more impact but he sold his shoes and so he’s just now getting to lace them back up. Let’s move on.

Here is what Oregon’s defense breaks down to:

Oregon's DI’ll get this started with the jump shooting defenses and leave the rim stuff for later. The rim stuff is my favorite so we’ll call it dessert. The shooting D is slightly below average. The yellow indicates they allow an average amount of twos and threes as well as an average 3FG% against (158). That’s fine. Average defense masked by a superior offense can get things done. But that’s only on threes which is generally not the most exciting defense to discuss because, as KenPom explains, sometimes taking a three is like playing the lottery. Thus, three point defense becomes an interesting point of defensive philosophy. For the Ducks it seems to be a shot they’ll let opponents take a comfortable amount of, letting them gamble a little but not a lot.

So with regards to my porous perimeter theory, I’m left to see that against that very average number of two-point jumpers, teams are hitting a very un-average percentage of them. Opponents are shooting 37.3% in the two-point jumper range and that ranks 251st in ‘Murica. To me, and in an effort to support my theory, this suggests that the already undersized and undermanned front court is being confronted with the defensive challenge of stopping dribbling guards. To stop the same guys who’ve just blown past a Duck guard and who are now able to do one of two things:

  1. Hit a relatively uncontested two point jumper that teams are doing at a relatively high level, OR
  2. Getting to the rim!

Oregon is allowing 39% of shots against them to come at the rim which ranks 205th in the nation and 11th in the Pac-12. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean they do a poor job of defending the rim so we can cite their opponents’ FG% at the rim. This is 59.1%, 186th in the nation and 9th in the conference. Those powers combined – high percentage of shots at the rim and high percentage being made – and you have the perfect storm of bad defense. Penetration leads to easy jumpers or a shot at the rim.

Furthermore – and this might be the toughest part of it all – the Ducks are allowing the 226th highest free throw rate in the nation meaning – and this is a very loose description – opponents are getting to the line on about 43.1% of their possessions. This of course isn’t taking into account all of the factors that define a game’s possessions but it’s how I’ve chosen to explain FT rate in this context. It gives us an idea not a fact, chill out.

But why it further contributes to this poor Duck defense is that Oregon is playing with the 18th most possessions per game in the nation. Ipso facto, Duck opponents are getting more possessions too and if they’re getting fouled on those – or easily to the rim – then they’re going to score more points. More points = bad defense.

Porous perimeter defense theory confirmed quantifiably ? Meh.

Halpert ShrugDefense is so difficult to quantify and it’s really tough to pinpoint a single weakness without watching all of their games, breaking down tape. I’m not going to watch all of their games. And I won’t soon tell you Oregon is a good defensive team. We’ve gone pretty extensively into a few reasons why they struggle. Areas in which they can and need to improve.

I can say that Oregon is an average defensive team. Their defensive efficiency ranks just a few tenths of a point above average (103.3 vs. 104.1) and prior to entering Pac-12 play, Oregon had played a very average schedule. Their non-conference strength of schedule ranked 211th. Average opposition + average defense + elite offense = 13-0. Note that the Ducks’ three conference losses are to 3 of the 4 highest KenPom rated teams they’ve played. It’s why the Duck SOS was on my Fourteen Things to Watch list (#5).

This isn’t a Duck death certificate. As good friend and Duck fan Matt told me, “Altman’s defense is a process, not a formula.” I love this concept and believe he’s right. There were going to be growing pains with such turnover and Altman should be applauded for what he’s done. A season ago he was coaching a top-10 defense and a season later he’s coaching a top-10 offense. He’s done both successfully. Their current slide perhaps supports the adage that defense wins championships. The Ducks, after all, did win the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament.

The best part about defense, however, is it can often be a simple test of fortitude. Sometimes you can just choose to be a better defender. With Arsalan Kazemi not soon to walk into Matt Knight, I wonder what direction these Ducks will take?

Week 1 Pac-12 Hoops Review

Hey welcome back to me and the weekly reviews, huh? The first weekend has wrapped and because of the new year holiday and no Wednesday games, it went as fast as a USC offense speeding bullet. And while the Polar Vortex annihilated the rest of the country, most of us out here were in shorts. At least I was. A Vortex of Comfort if you will. Anyhow, let’s get this going like a Colts comeback.

The weekend:

Leader in the Clubhouse: The obvious choice would be the number one Arizona Wildcats. We’ll hold off on glowing about them because everyone else is. I’m going to give this award to the Colorado Buffaloes this week. They sustained a great effort from the Transfer Monsters (48 points from Moser, Young, and Calliste after their 16 point collective on Thursday) and held court at home (also worth noting is that Booker and Dinwiddie combined for 50 and I read a flurry of “Dinwiddie the pro!” tweets). I liked that because for many intents and purposes, Oregon was headed to Boulder with the taste of a loss on their tongues. They of course did win on Thursday, but beyond that they had every desire to come into The Keg for blood. Sounds obvious but the external motivators beyond a scoreboard and competition were there. And the Buffs absorbed that and endured. 13-2.

Biggest Loser: Toss up here. What do you say? I’m deciding between ASU and Stanford and I’m going to pick the latter because the Sun Devils still come out of the weekend with a win. Washington would go on – following their ASU stomping – to show quite competitively in Tucson so I’ve become a touch more of a UW believer. Point being, Stanford dropped a home game to their arch rival and former coach who was short two of their best players and propagated the dialogue about the health of their program and heat of their coaches seat. Yes, all of that on a Thursday night.

What We Learned: There were some nice contests to kick things off and I think we were all reminded of the enigmatic nature of conference sports, but Utah. Sure they lost on a last second steal-n-dunk – you know, just the way Dana likely drew things up – but they played like the winners for all 45 minutes. Prior to the game, Utah was interesting, at best, to me. I gchatted all about it and ‘interesting’ was literally the only thing we could come up with (we meaning me, James, and Jason). Such a conclusion made that game Thursday night all the more, well, interesting. AND THEN THE GAME ACTUALLY HAPPENED! I loved Jordan Loveridge’s night and the way Utah played and conducted themselves. And I still think full credit is owed to Oregon. Winning conference road games is to be celebrated. Losing conference home games is a tough pill to swallow. That’s why I think Utah’s effort was a moral victory but not necessarily one they have to like. Oh, and then they kicked the hell out of OSU. Utah’s legit.

In Defense Of: I conjured this new segment up while on a run Sunday morning. Figured it was a good spot to play devil’s advocate, ruffle some feathers, or rant a little bit. Namely this came to mind because I think Kaleb Tarczewski gets far too much criticism for bad hands. He’s like the giant second grader who gets picked on but is expected to handle it because he’s a behemoth. I know because I was that kid. But I don’t want to do that because I kinda already did that. So here is the segment where I defend Steve Alford! I don’t think he needs to be defended necessarily. More I just needed a reason to discuss UCLA in this piece. 107 points on your little brother nemesis who’s already accused you of being the slow ones? That was awesome. It was this:

So yes, I was a big fan of what UCLA pulled off this weekend. Also, just to note, amongst 107 points just 17 came from a combined four post players. Interesting nugget to watch as we head into Thursday’s Arizona @ UCLA tilt.

The YouTuber: This is just kinda nuts.

The Pac-12 Year in HOLY S***!!! (Copying Grantland)

If you’re not familiar with Grantland’s Year in Holy S***!!!, familiarize now. In a swift Bart ride back to my house I was taken out of the stat holes of KenPom and hoop-math and reminded that SPORTS! Watch that Steph Curry highlight reel and tell me you don’t get goosebumps as he drops trey on the Nuggets, turning to their bench before net.

Alas, this is a Pac-12 blog and holy shit happens here, too. We’re about to dive into it. But to further preface this reactionary and sudden expulsion of disbelief; before unveiling the moments that had as out of our chairs, jaws gaping, eyes wide, SMHing all over; prior to that, I’d just like to say that these are the things that have us coming back. Fandom, for better or worse or otherwise, allows us to get lost. Why we stand and shout. Holy shit. Bravo.

Here are a handful of those times from Brad, Ben, Matt, Jason, and me in no particular order.

The McKale Monitor Mishap

Jason of AllBuffs.com– The Monitors at McKale moment game started late for me.  I was in the car in a part of Colorado that severely tested KOA’s claim of “3 countries/38 states” motto.  When I arrived at my destination, not exactly civilization, but a place that does have DirecTV, (luckily the game was on ESPN) I turned on the TV and my first “Holy Shit” moment occurred.  CU was up, by double digits, in McKale, “Holy Shit indeed”.  Over the remaining 15 minutes of the game, the rest of my party arrived, the beers and wine were flowing and then the FT’s started clanking, oh those FT’s. When Mark Lyons made his second free throw with 10 seconds left, I stood up and I didn’t sit down for several minutes.  Sabatino Chen ended up with the ball in his hands with 3.5 seconds left, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t designed, it was….. BANKED, but it did go in.  There were high fives and then a “wait a minute, they’re reviewing it”.  It was good, it was definitely good was being echoed throughout the room.  Then it began, the slow walk toward the TV, the room was hushed, the volume was cranked and everybody was gathered around a 52 inch high-definition TV.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 10.02.27 PM

Win probability.

Over and over we watched, angle after angle, hands now ON the TV, “no-it’s out right there, it’s good, the red light isn’t on yet”.  Then it happened……”HOLY SHIT” they called it no good.  F-bombs were dropped; BS’s thrown around and the air had been let out of the room.  I don’t remember the last 5 minutes of the game, all I know was that CU lost, but I will never forget that “HOLY SHIT” moment and that I was in the middle of nowhere, with high-definition TV while the refs  standing courtside were stuck with the standard-definition variety

Adam – I’d watched as my Wildcats made a furious comeback from the most three pointers the Buffaloes would hit in a single game all season. Well, it was going to be the most until Chen happened. Head down dribbling out the clock he heaved it up and you know the rest. I was here with friends and had conceded Arizona’s loss. We watched all of the angles and I even broke things down for my houseguests exactly how, if I were one of the officials, I’d bury my head in the monitor, confirm the call with field goal arms and bolt off the McKale floor. I bolted out of my living room to demonstrate. But when I returned, the officials were waving the whole damn thing off and…HOLY SHIT. Hey, Cats win and Mark Lyons doesn’t give a rats ass about how nice Sabatino’s hair is.

He Touched the Ball x5 and Cancun

Adam – From my Vegas vantage point following the UCLA-Arizona game I had this to tweet which, as you’ll notice, when unreplied, retweeted, or favorited. For shame.

Well then what happened?

AND THAT’S SOME STRAIGHT NOSTRADAMUS ACTION PEOPLE. Anyhow, in our hotel room, we watched that presser another 3-to-fifteen-hundred times because oh my holy shit goodness Sean Miller wasn’t happy. There’s more spice in that presser than an Indian dish. There’s more heat in Miller’s words than a dutch oven under plastic covers. There’s more flame in those eyes than under Ken Bone’s seat. Ask the Pac-12 representative Miller “didn’t” berate but rather who was the closest in proximity as he screamed innocuously down a hallway. And then Goodman’s news broke and maybe this is the true holy shit of it all? We wound up with an officiating scandal that I had to digest in phases. $5k and a trip to Cancun is some watered down Illumanati action. And now replay the presser.

Jahii Drops 40 on The Strip

Adam – Sure it was a career high and sure the Devils needed every one of his double-score scoring output from Carson. That’s undoubtedly some MVP stuff. Carson connected on 16 of his 25 shots inside the Thomas and Mack and that’s a pretty damn efficient 40 points. But wait, there’s holy shit coming. Because the 5’10” Carson made 14 of those 16 shots as layups which basically just says to me that Carson stared down the Rebels and their 7 blocked shots per game to announce to everyone that, “I AM JAHIISUS. I AM SO GREAT THAT I HAVE FORCED HERB SENDEK OF SLOTH PACED OFFENSES TO COMPLETELY BURY THE FOUNDATION OF HIS OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY AND THE STYLE IN WHICH HE BUILT HIS CAREER IN ORDER TO KEEP HIS JOB AND LOCAL TALENT. AT LEAST HE CAN NO LONGER LAMENT JAMES HARDEN’S DEPARTURE. I AM JAHIISUS.” And then he beat Marquette in Tempe to secure the first Sun Devil win over a ranked opponent since before Todd Graham was associated with other coaching jobs. Harden, who?

Askia Booker Doesn’t Give a Jayhawk

Ben of Rumblinbuff.com – 

If safeties-free, all-balls performances like 17 points as a freshman in the NCAA Tournament, or a sizzling domination of a non-conference run in Charleston as a sophomore didn’t let you in on the secret, let me clue you in: Askia Booker was born to get buckets.  Important buckets.  Season-defining buckets.

So, when Kansas, dominator of all things Colorado Basketball for generations, makes the mistake of getting into a see-saw affair in the snake-pit-that-Tad-built, who else could CU turn to with the game on the line?  Not Josh Scott.  He’s too smooth, too nice.  Not Spencer Dinwiddie.  He’s too conventional, too ‘efficient.’


No, you need insanity.  You need a player with no conscience, no understanding of the stage upon which he steps.  You need, to be brash, a player who does not give a f***.

Askia Booker does not give a f***.  Askia Booker gets buckets.

And so, 80-feet from the basket, with three seconds left on the clock against that team, the under-recruited dynamo from South LA – off-center goatee, and all – was the player in silver getting the ball.

One dribble, two.  Still too far from the hoop.  Better euro-step to cover some ground.  Square up, leap, let fly.

Watch the gif.  Count the fucks given by Booker.  There are none to be found.  After release, he just stands there, as if waiting for the oncoming train of noise.  Waiting for us, the fans, to realize what he has just pulled off.  He was born to hit that shot.  He was born to euro-step into that shot.

Almost four years ago, Colorado was in a similar situation against the hated Jayhawk.  Clock ticking down, tie game, ball in hand, CU had a shot to stun the #1 team in the land in the time-before-Tad.  In that moment, it was Cory Higgins who was called upon.  Higgins, the program’s co-leader in scoring, wasn’t up to the moment, and air-balled his dance with history.  Looking back, it all makes sense.

Booker is everything that Higgins is not.  Higgins was calm, cool, collected.  Indeed, sophisticated.  James Bond in shorts.  Booker is the junkyard dog, barking at everything in sight.    John McClane in Black and Gold.  Higgins may have been more talented, but Booker has the want, the need to hoop.  The balls to steal headlines from future NBA bonus babies.  The grit to walk across broken glass when needed.

I could twist myself in knots talking about how the game, the win, the shot meant something for Colorado, for Booker.  In the end, there’s nothing but the inbounds, the euro-step, and the pure, un-adulterated brashness of Ski and his moment.

Bucket gotten.

Mike Moser Leaves Las Vegas, Does Not Suffer Nic Cage-like Departure

Matt of AddictedtoQuack.com – Given Oregon’s lack of depth in the front court this season, the addition of a quality player like Mike Moser was definitely a wanted surprise to Duck fans.  Keeping him away from Washington was just an added bonus. Moser brings leadership, talent, and immediate play-ability to a position that was vacated by fan favorite, Arsalan Kazemi. Moser also fits perfectly into Dana Altman’s high-post wheel offense.  His ability to stretch the floor, handle the ball, and pull bigger defenders away from the hoop compliments Oregon’s guard focused offense. To say that Moser joining the Ducks this off season was a Holy Shit moment is putting it lightly.

Just this Dunk

Brad of Portland –  If you were watching that dunk you were like, HOLY-SHIT-KNOCK-KNOCK-WHO’S THERE-BOOOM-SHAKALAKA-F***-YOU-DARREN-SHARPER-HOLD MY DICK! Then you put a hand over your mouth, made a noise like you were watching Kevin Ware shoot a jumper in a regional final, and wept like you saw a double rainbow.

827051630RHJ doesn’t dunk his nigiri in the soy sauce, he slams that shit down so hard he cooks the fish. He is not a role model. Just because he can dunk a basketball does not mean he should raise your kid. Anyone raisin’ that kid is laughing their way to the bank faster than Earl Woods. The rest of us are just wiping our own kid off the Christmas card and sending a photo RHJ posterizing the entire Aggies basketball team instead.

Larry Drew Two’s Icy Veins Meet Icy Shabazz
Adam – LD2’s season in and of itself was a giant surprise. He was the rock his coach couldn’t quite be and the his prima dona wing wouldn’t be. For all the heat he’d taken in leaving Carolina across 12-13 Drew was a leader and it was fun to watch. And then to see those who we cheer for and appreciate succeed is great! So as Drew took that pass and slashed through the lane and hit a fading, elbow jumper to sink the Dawgs and maintaining their spot atop the conference – the conference they’d go on to win – I was impressed and jaw dropped. Holy shit as it were.
But in that gif you’ll notice the sulking shoulders of a neon shoed gentlemen. He’s left handed and was no where near a position to necessarily get a basketball with a waning clock and whining attitude. And yes I just said “whining attititude” which is the same crap my dad would drop on the Blue Rhinos – my 11-and-under baseball team.  Whiny attitude is a phrase reserved for juveniles but that’s about what not getting the ball when you want the ball equates to. It was the moment that perhaps personified everything that we didn’t know but felt UCLA’s season would become. Holy shit did he really just big league his own team off an icy cold buzzer beater? He did, and now it’s Steve Alford’s team (which was a holy shit in and of itself).
Two Teams AND Two Numbers
Adam – With two, citations of the number two, this. But when Oregon visited Pauley on Saturday January 19, 2013 it was the first Pac-12 Conference game featuring two ranked opponents since March 2009. What two words come to mind here? Holy and shit. Four years it took to get to this place and it was 21 vs. 24? And the road team won? Man oh man had this conference hit rock bottom. There would be just one more contest between ranked opponents that season (see: Ball, He Touched the)
What did we miss (lots no doubt)?