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
I wasn’t sold on his move to the three. I liked for him to be on the block and wasn’t sold on his athleticism on the wing. This season, however, with Delon still getting at the rim, he made himself available to rain from the outside and hit 43% from deep. In Utah’s weird late offense, Loveridge takes 22% of his offense beyond 30-seconds on the shot clock. This has nothing to do with his reintroduction following knee surgery but it’s interesting! Another fact? Against the league’s other top 4 teams, Loveridge was just 12-39 and the Utes were 1-4. In the NCAA tournament, against Utah’s best opponent (the eventual national champion) he shot 1-6 from distance. Early rankings have the Utes once again in the Top-25, the continued evolution of Jordan Loveridge (aka: a great senior season) will be critical to that.
2. Robert Upshaw – POY?
3. Chasson Randle & Joe Young – I miss my junior guards
Soon after I wrote this, Chasson got hot. Stanford started Pac-12 play 6-2 (7-2 when you toss in that UConn win) and Chasson was scoring more than 22 per game. I’d criticized him for taking too many threes and not getting to the rim. And then he cooled off, shooting the lowest 3FG% of his career (albeit still 36%) and the highest percentage and number of threes in his career (46%, 248 attempts). Stanford stalled out and Chasson never exceeded 20 points after January. In game one of the Pac-12 tournament, he looked disinterested until hitting the game winner against Washington which propelled him to 22 against Utah (granted, a loss) and then the NIT championship (his second!) and the All-Time scoring lead at Stanford. The NIT, however, too little too late. Joe Young, on the other hand, well he went ahead and became your Pac-12 Player of the Year, his team finished second in the conference, and he took the Badgers to the bring for the second year in a row.
4. The Washington Basketball Program
This was Lorenzo’s quote that I challenged back in January:
Getting people to believe again if you’ve already experienced some success is easier than if you’ve never done it before. I feel like people knew that we had success here, and it was something that was going to be able to be achieved again because it had already happened.
I published this on 1/2/15 and the Huskies were 11-1. They’d finish with the lowest win total in the Romar era. And Herb Sendek got fired…
5. The Colorado Basketball Program
Askia Booker didn’t even finish the season with the team. He had a find season and a fine career…but he didn’t even finish the season with the team. Dustin Thomas announced he was transferring from the program, another health metric indicating trouble. But at least he stayed with the team through the CBI. Askia Booker didn’t even stick around. The January request was to keep an eye on this program and that’ll be this summer’s thought as well. Of note, the Buffs have no recruits of ranking acclaim, played Xavier Talton 23 minutes per game despite an 83 offensive rating (I dare you to try and find a player with a higher %min and lower, if not equal ORtg), and don’t be surprised of Xavier Johnson isn’t rostered in 2015-16. Here’s to hoping Josh Scott has a healthy back!
6. Cal’s offense
With or without Jabari Bird it stunk because Ty Wallace shot everything. They were 10th in the conference in offensive efficiency and – not coincidentally – Ty Wallace had the 7th worst offensive rating of anyone marking 28% usage or greater (95.1/31.1%). It doesn’t help that David Kravish offensively regressed (110.5 as a Junior to 99.7 as a Senior) and drew almost no fouls as a big man. I guess when it comes to big men, however, Cuonzo has some big ideas. Huge in fact.
7. What kinda good is Arizona?
This was the last thing I wrote in answering this question:
BONUS: Is it time to bring Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into the starting lineup?
Two days later he started against Arizona State, was the KenPom MVP, and Arizona would beat Pac-12 opponents at historic margins (17.7 ppg, 0.29 ppp). Unfortunately Sean Miller’s greatest window of talent (67-9) was on a back-to-back crash course with what was playing out to be the darlings of March. That wasn’t meant to be either. What kinda good was Arizona this year? They finished #2 in KenPom for the second straight year and top-10 in adjusted offense and defense; but none of that puts a banner inside the McKale Center. Their business was left unfinished.
8. Jakob Poeltl and Stanley Johnson: Not the only freshman worth watching OR The bullet point where I note Kevon Looney and Dillon Brooks
Poeltl cooled off but he was still critical if not great. He’s a projected lottery pick in some cirlces. I imagine he’ll stay another year and that’s what has the Utes in the early Top-25s. Stanley Johnson was your Freshman of the Year. Dillon Brooks was solid but wound up prone to streaks of – you know – being a freshman (2 points vs. UCLA, 0 points vs. Stanford). And while Kevon Looney didn’t quite average a double-double for the season (Congrats Josh Hawkinson), he was the genesis of this Bill Walton line:
— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 5, 2015
9. The competin’ Beavs
I wouldn’t give Wayne Tinkle the Pac-12 Coach of the Year Award. I have friends who vehemently say he deserved it but I’m not one to celebrate mediocrity. His team finished 7th, almost squarely in the middle of the conference, with a record of 8-10. Can’t award that but it can – and must – be appreciated and understood for the long term prospects of this program. They had little to no talent. I don’t care if GP2 was the dPOY (and I don’t think he’s the best defender in the conference), this team was so bad they finished ranked 291st in offensive efficiency. That’s awful. Only 2012 USC and Utah ranked worse (6-win teams). Yet they were the 13th best defense in the country and – to bridge that talent gap – will be welcoming a Top-25 recruiting class. No awards but lots of optimism.
10. The whole damn conference
Which was to say: How many will dance? And it wound up being four teams and that wound up gaining us an opportunity to watch an extra weekend of Arizona, Utah, and UCLA. Yup, the Bruins got an invitation they probably didn’t deserve but if you’re invited to the Ball you might as well dress nice. The Utes got jobbed by the referees against Duke but who hasn’t in March? Or at least we could ask Bo Ryan about it. Arizona broke my heart. But how about all that? Three teams in the Sweet-16. I certainly didn’t think of it in January and there were times I thought just two teams would be dancing. Alas, it was four, and they showed up to play. Kudos.
11. Bill Walton
He started a Vine account. And it’s awesome.
12. Your Roadie
I went to Seattle for a long weekend and caught my first game at HecEd. While the crowd was underwhelming the venue itself is stunning. Gorgeous even. Additionally I went to Palo Alto and Berkeley with my family. Tops. I took co-workers to McKale as team bonding. Unfortunately they didn’t get a ton of my attention. I sat court side for every game in Las Vegas. I went to games that Arizona wasn’t involved in and that high schoolers played. And then I went to Los Angeles – once again – for a rematch with Wisconsin. What sorta trouble did you get in to?