PAC-10 Basketball

A new source for PAC-10 Basketball News

Posts Tagged ‘Ernie Kent’

PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 8

Posted by naterb on February 23, 2009

 

Despite four of the top five teams taking losses this week, there is no movement in the top of the conference. It looks to me like there won’t be much more movement amongst these teams the rest of the way out. Could be a few position switches (ASU/UW for example), but I wouldn’t expect anymore 2-spot jumps or drops the rest of the way out.

 

  1. Arizona State (E) – They’ve won five straight including wins over UCLA, USC, and breaking Arizona’s 7-game win streak. They’ll be tough to stop from here on out.
  2. Washington (E) – Despite the loss to UCLA last week, they’re still in sole possession (by a half game) of the best conference record and have a chance to separate themselves further with ASU coming to town this weekend.
  3. UCLA (E) – Defeating Washington at home was nice, but the Bruins are struggling and a home loss against Washington State shows it. They’re falling fast and I wonder if Ben Howland can turn ‘em back around.
  4. Arizona (E) – A two-point loss to Arizona State on the road is nothing to frown upon. They’ve been playing well over the past four weeks and are still one of the hottest teams in the conference.
  5. CAL (E) – A loss to Oregon State isn’t as bad as we thought, but CAL has suffered that fate twice this year. They’re in the same boat as UCLA with the wheels starting to come off down the stretch.
  6. Oregon State (+2) – A season sweep of CAL and a winning record against the bottom half of the conference earns them this spot. Imagine what they could do with USC type of talent.
  7. USC (-1)  The Trojans have struggled all year long, but it keeps getting worse. They haven’t won back-to-back games in the past four weeks. They’ve fallen apart in the second half of conference play.
  8. Washington State(+1)  That was a nice win for the Cougars over UCLA this week – and on the road no less. Could they finally be gelling as a team and producing at the level we’ve become accustomed to with Bennett Ball the past few years or was this simply a flash in the pan?
  9. Stanford (-2)– Okay, I admit it… I screwed up on these guys last week. They drop not just because of their loss to Oregon, but lets face it – their frontcourt is non-existent and their backcourt is average at best. They haven’t won two games in a week since before conference play began.
  10. Oregon (E)– The Ducks have been in the basement of the PAC-10 Power Rankings almost all season long. Unfortunately the only way out of it is to sweep their final three games and have Stanford get swept. Is Ernie Kent on the way out?
Advertisements

Posted in PAC-10 Basketball, Power Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pregame: Arizona @ Oregon

Posted by naterb on February 6, 2009

On Saturday night the ‘Cats hope to keep their Tournament hopes alive while the Ducks are looking to save a little dignity.

On Saturday night the ‘Cats look to keep their Tournament hopes alive while the Ducks are looking to save a little dignity.

Both the Wildcats and the Ducks will enter into Saturday’s game hoping to salvage something of their season. The Wildcats have been getting themselves back into legitimate NCAA Tournament talks again, but a loss to Oregon would almost certainly be a knock-out blow for the ‘Cats. Meanwhile, the Ducks have been horrendous in conference play this season and are looking to salvage at least their dignity during the second-half of conference play. Can the ‘Cats avoid the knock-out blow and stretch Oregon’s losing skid to 11 with their second true road win of the year? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bruins De-"Claw" Cats

Posted by naterb on January 16, 2009

 

 

 

 

Arizona’s make-shift 1-3-1 “Claw” defense was methodically ripped to shreds in an 83-60 mauling at the hands of the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. This isn’t the first time that the Wildcats have seen their Dunlap brainstorm defense look this bad – Cal did it, Stanford did it, and most dramatically so did UNLV. The ‘Claw’ is designed to pressure opponents front court into making what Oregon Coach Ernie Kent deemed as ‘basketball plays’ but not necessarily to trap or create turnovers. After a player is able to make a tough play (splitting a double-team, reversing the ball, finding the open skip pass, etc.) their teammates are able to find easy looks from beyond the arc or in the middle of the court right around the free throw line..

 

 

That major flaw in the zone was exploited at will by the Bruins who shot nearly 60% from the field, and had 9 of their 28 buckets come from right in the center of that gap. When the Bruins weren’t passing into the heart of the defensive gap, they were using dribble penetration to slip past Arizona’s perimeter players just about any time they looked to. If and when the defense collapsed, UCLA did a great job of kicking the ball out for 17 open looks beyond the arc. The ‘Cats have proven they can make this work, but have yet to do so against a good three-point shooting team, and UCLA made the defensive problems so glaring that Pennell and Co. may need to go back to the drawing board midway through the season.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the court the Bruins did just enough to disrupt the Wildcats and force them into the occasional turnover. UCLA’s defense wasn’t as stifling as it has been against the ‘Cats in previous years, but it was still enough to disrupt the Wildcats offensive flow and put them into a few two-minute scoring droughts over the course of the game. The Wildcats were able to limit their turnovers, as they had 9 before Garland Judkins’ 2 turnovers with under 4 minutes remaining. Unfortunately those 9 turnovers led to the Wildcats being significantly outscored in fast-break opportunities again – a common theme in each of the last six losses.

 

The Wildcats problems continued against UCLA when Nic Wise was limited to a paltry five on points on 1-for-8 shooting, and appears to be going head-long into a slump of his own. Wise, who is now 2-17 in the last two games, has been providing a significant portion of Arizona’s offense this season, was did have an impact on the game with 5 assists as several times he penetrated and dished off to the open man. I was very pleased with how Wise kept his head in the game and continued to find ways to help his team even if his shots weren’t falling. Occasionally, however, the Wildcats need Wise to become a scorer and not just a playmaker, particularly when Jordan Hill is on the bench due to foul trouble.

 

Wise wasn’t the real problem offensively tonight, that comes down on Arizona’s “hustle” guys – Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg. I’m not bashin’ on the kids here, but they have both seen better games. Horne and Fogg thrive on picking up loose rebounds, coming up with the occasional steal, and doing all the intangibles that make every team “stick.” The ‘Cats two hustle guys came up with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal. If you take away the final two minutes they only combined for 3 points before the UCLA bench was cleared. Big stats aren’t typically something you expect out of the hustle guys, but unfortunately with this roster against a team like UCLA, it is a must-have if they want to win.

So it’s not that the Wildcats had a horrendous night, but they clearly aren’t hitting on all cylinders right now. Perhaps that illusive first road-win won’t come until the ‘Cats travel to Washington or Oregon later this season. Perhaps they just can’t win on the road – period. Maybe it’s just that they’re unlucky when it comes to road games at the toughest venues the PAC-10 has to offer? Whatever the case may be, one thing is apparent: The ‘Cats still need a lot of work when other teams are fine-tuning and that spells trouble.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

With 54% shooting adding up to 14 points, it is safe to say that Budinger is out of his slump.

Jordan Hill was a monster inside the paint yet again. But once again the ‘Cats failed to look for him within 8 feet of the basket with any regularity. Hill handled the double and triple teams the Bruins threw at him quite well on the night though.

I can’t complain about the officiating. Sure there were a few bad calls and a few blown ones. That’s basketball, and PAC-10 basketball at that.

I really like what I’m seeing out of Zane Johnson the last several games. He’s been putting in extra time in the gym working on his jumper and it’s paying off. He could be rewarded with a starting job in the near future.

While UCLA’s defense was solid, it wasn’t as impressive as it has been in previous years. The Wildcats found themselves with quite a few open looks but for whatever reason just couldn’t knock ‘em down.

Another problem I have with Arizona’s defensive effort is the growing trend of long offensive rebounds. UCLA exploited every second chance opportunity that they had and turned them into points. Every single one of them.

Garland Judkins was back at practice this week, and back in the game tonight but is clearly on a short leash. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t transfer at the end of the season – if he’s still on the team then.

UCLA’s ShotChart:

 

ucla-shotchart

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

PAC-10 Power Rankings – Week 2

Posted by naterb on January 12, 2009

pac10-power-rankings

1. UCLA (E)
UCLA has shown great guard play and have maintained the top position despite the drop-off in talent from the previous few years. They’re aren’t a lock for the conference title by any stretch, even if the conference is weaker this year.
Last Week: W. @ USC 64-60

2. California (E)
Randle and Christopher have been sensational. They even got some help from Robertson this week too. Winning a close game on the road is a solid way to boost your confidence. Watch out UCLA, CAL just might have the best backcourt in the conference.
Last Week: W @ WSU 57-50, W @ UW 88-85 (OT)

3. Arizona State (E)
ASU remains solid at home, and put on a defensive clinic against Oregon State. We’ll see how good they really are when they travel to Pauley on Thursday.
Last Week: W vs. OSU 69-38, W v. OU 76-58

4. Washington (E)
Washington got a monster week from Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas this week. Can’t fault them for a 3-point OT loss to the hottest team in the conference right now.
Last Week: W. vs. STAN 84-83, L vs. CAL 88-85 (OT)

5. Arizona (+2)
The Big Three are starting to show the minutes they’ve played and it’s resulting in a slump passing from player to player. Zane Johnson has stepped up and could earn himself a starting role in the next few weeks.
Last Week: W vs. OU 67-52, W vs. OSU 64-47

6. USC (E)
The Trojans are lacking a lot of chemistry and are paying the price in close games. A close loss to UCLA isn’t a big deal, but they lack too much chemistry to be considered a serious contender at this point.
Last Week: L vs. UCLA 64-60

7. Washington State (+2)
Rochestie stepped up big for the Cougars this week, and were fortunate not to be 0-3 to start conference play before finally hitting the road next week.
Last Week: L vs. Cal 50-57, W vs. Stan 55-54

8. Stanford (-3)
A pair of 1 point losses is tough. Their guards can’t carry them much longer.
Last Week: L @ UW 83-84, L  @ WSU 55-54

9. Oregon State (-1)
They got man-handled by ASU & UofA this week, but they are organized and playing hard. That Princeton offense keeps them closer than they probably should be.
Last Week: L @ ASU 69-38, L @ UA 64-47

10. Oregon (E)
If inexperience is bad, then these guys are awful. Catron and Porter were nowhere this past week. Is the team giving up on Ernie Kent?
Last Week: L @ UA 67-52, L @ ASU 76-58

Posted in NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Power Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Oregon's Inexperience Leads to Cats Win

Posted by naterb on January 9, 2009

 

 

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Michael Dunigan turning his back on Chase Budinger during a first-half in-bound play is the epitome of what is wrong with the Ducks this season. The Ducks aren’t a bad team with players who have no business competing in the PAC-10. By-and-large, however, they are a team filled with young players who have been thrust into key roles too early in their college careers. The Wildcats exploited this and despite their less-than-stellar performance rode it on their way to a 67-52 route of the Ducks at McKale Center.

The Good:

Russ Pennell and the Wildcats did a nice job of getting Chase Budinger good looks at the basket by having him along the baseline and making strong cuts towards the basket. The result was several dunks, lay-ups, and short-ranged jumpers. Budinger was also found in transition on numerous occasions. I’m not ready to declare Budinger out of his slump as of yet, especially in light of his 1-5 shooting from beyond the arc, but the quality looks he got against the Ducks is a great way to help him find his rhythm again. The mental lapses by Budinger, as well as the over-flow mentality onto the rest of the team seems to have dissipated as the ‘Cats regained some of that swagger and confidence back throughout the game.

The biggest indicator of the teams reaction to Budinger starting to come out of his slump is Jamelle Horne. Following one of his worst performance of the year (2 points, 5 fouls, 19 minutes), Horne returned to progressing as an offensive weapon and impact player with 15 points and 4 rebounds while playing 36 minutes. I believe the reason for this is because Horne was playing within himself and making good decisions rather than trying to do too much to compensate for Budinger’s slump.

A few other things I was impressed with was Arizona’s ability to counter the tempo and defensive changes that Ernie Kent and the Ducks threw at the ‘Cats. There were a few lapses and mistakes caused by these changes, but on the whole the Wildcats did a nice job of transitioning from one look to another. I was also impressed with Zane Johnson’s first-half performance off the bench. Johnson, who has seen inconsistent minutes for the ‘Cats, came in and grabbed 2 rebounds while posting 7 points over a stretch when the ‘Cats had begun to stagnate. With some more experience and progression I can see Johnson turning into a great role player like Michael Roll for UCLA.

The Bad:

Jordan Hill did not record a double-double since December 14th against Gonzaga. Considering the defensive efforts of the Ducks and Michael Dunigan, I can’t blame Hill on this. Hill still had a solid game with 9 points and 12 rebounds, but expect more defensive focus on Jordan Hill for the rest of the season. The reason Hill’s failure to reach a double-double lands in the “Bad” category has nothing to do with the effort he made – after all he didn’t hurt the team by finding himself in foul trouble or missing open looks. The problem I have is that when teams focus on Hill defensively, the Cats need to run some set plays to get Hill the ball deep in the paint where even the best center in the nation can’t stop him.

Kyle Fogg’s performance, however, is a result of his own doing. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not down on the kid, he had an off game which is to be expected from a freshman responsible for a big role. Fogg had several mental lapses leading to turnovers or fouls and failed to become an offensive threat against the Ducks.

The Ugly:

Nic Wise tops the charts of the ugly factor. The Wildcats were less than stellar in protecting the ball, and Wise was the core reason for this. Wise had 7 of Arizona’s 17 turnovers, and many of them were due to over-penetration and offensive fouls. Wise was also caught off guard by in-prompt-to traps across half court by the Ducks. As a veteran point guard, Wise needs to be prepared for these types of traps and be ready to hit the open man as he sees the trap coming at him. With such a sloppy performance by Wise, Arizona was fortunate that they weren’t facing a team clicking on all cylinders.

In conjunction with Wise’s 7 turnovers, the Wildcats committed 17 team turnovers. The Wildcats were fortunate that the Ducks weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers the way that CAL or Stanford did. But the turnover situation has to be a major concern for the coaching staff. Since the Kansas game the Wildcats have seen their turnover rate rising as they’ve averaged 15.25 turnovers a game and have committed more turnovers than their opponent in the previous 3 games.

Back to the Ducks:

I was very impressed with the talent and glimpses of what the future holds for the Ducks. There were several points where the Ducks upped the defensive pressure resulting in nine steals and a few second-half mini-runs. A big concern for the Ducks has to be Tejuan Porter. Porter needs to be the leader on this team since Catron is completely unproven, but Porter is extremely inconsistent from game-to-game. With Porter being a focal point for the Ducks offense, they will see erratic scoring and inconsistent play from the entire team until he plays with consistency or another player steps up as the leader.

Despite foul trouble thanks to freshmen inexperience, Dunigan has the looks of a future stud for the Ducks. Ernie Kent would be wise to recruit complimentary players to Dunigan’s game as he will be one of the leading centers in the PAC-10 after the departures of Jordan Hill and Jon Brockman.

Game Highlights Video (Including the inbound play where Dunigan turns his back on Budinger)

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

PAC-10 Power Rankings

Posted by naterb on January 6, 2009

 

Every morning you can pick up your local newspaper or go online to any major sports website and look up the current standings in the PAC-10. If you were to do that any time before this Thursday here’s what you would see:

1. UCLA 2-0

2. CAL 2-0

3. Washington 1-0

4. Stanford 1-1

5. ASU 1-1

6. USC 1-1

7. OSU 1-1

8. WSU 0-1

9. Arizona 0-2

10. Oregon 0-2

 

Darren Collison
Darren Collison

But standings at this point in the conference season don’t mean anything. Do you honestly believe that Oregon State is better than Arizona, Oregon or Washington? As conference play wears on the standings will be perpetually more revealing as to how each of the teams stack up. Now, I know this is impossible, but it would be nice if the media had some way of reporting how the teams are really stacked up, and not just by their record. So I’ve decided to pick up there and every week I’ll break down the PAC-10 and rank them against one another. Enjoy!

 

  1. UCLA – It’s no surprise that they stand on top of the conference after the opening weekend. Shipp and Collison were impressive this weekend on the road.
  2. CAL – Their sweep of the Arizona schools is more impressive than UCLA’s conference wins, but it’s too early to use that as a bearing point right now. Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher are a great one-two punch and have Cal vying for the top position in the PAC-10.
  3. ASU – A 30 point win over Stanford at Maples? Even if Stanford is down this year, that’s still impressive. CAL exploited their weaknesses and showed that ASU needs another offensive weapon.
  4. Washington – Defeating your in-state rivals on their floor is always a great way to start conference play. The Huskies have seen continued production from Jon Brockman, Isaiah Thomas, and Justin Dentmon. If they want to stay ranked this high, they’ll need Quincy Pondexter to step up.
  5. Stanford – That 30 point loss at home was embarrassing, but they bounced back and controlled their match-up with Arizona, even on an off night. Their lack of interior presence will become problematic over the course of conference play. They over-came it this weekend, so until their style falters this is where they belong.
  6. USC – Winning on the road in the PAC-10 isn’t easy, period. But to be the team that snaps Oregon State’s 17-game losing streak is downright embarrassing. The Trojans have more problems than a tough road loss to a bad Oregon State team. They have an athletic and talented roster, but they aren’t playing as a team. They’ll continue to struggle until the players view the team as more than a yield sign into the NBA.
  7. Arizona – Going 0-2 to start conference play is never good. But for a young team whose leader is struggling you can’t fault them too much. Things should be okay in Arizona once Budinger finds his way out of this wicked slump. Until then, all talk of contending for a tournament bid should be silenced.
  8. Oregon State – It must feel great to get that monkey off their back, especially against a team that was picked to finish in the top four of the conference. Has the new coach breathed life into these kids, or was this simply a flash in the pan?
  9. Washington State – Their off-season losses are grossly apparent. It wasn’t the fact that they lost their rivalry game at home that has them ranked so low. It’s the fact that an average Washington team flat out toyed with them. Rochestie, Thompson, and Baynes need to step up in a big way or this is going to be a long season.
  10. Oregon – What’s worse than starting conference play 0-2? Doing that on your home court. The Ducks should be fine as long as Ernie Kent can get the freshmen up to speed. It will be another up and down season for the Ducks though.

 

Alright, I admit it… I’m a stat junkie. I get excited looking at a box score. I like seeing a player putting up 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists more than seeing a guy go for 30 points. Why? Partly because I like seeing all the little boxes with something filled in – might be some form of OCD – but mostly because I value the complete game more than a scorer any day. But stats can only tell you so much. While they can give you an idea as to how a player or team performed, they aren’t definitive. The same can be said of Conference standings.

Posted in PAC-10 Basketball, Power Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

PAC-10: Contenders vs. Pretenders

Posted by naterb on December 31, 2008

As PAC-10 play has drawn closer, I’ve been taking a good look at the different teams and haven’t been too startled by what I saw. The only exception to that has been the success of Stanford and their undefeated record after losing the Lopez Twins to the NBA. They are even receiving votes in the AP and the Coaches polls! So I started kicking around the teams trying to sift through the soft OOC schedules, and misleading stats trying to figure out who will challenge for the PAC-10 crown this year.

The obvious choice is going to be UCLA. Sure, they’re down from the past two or three years, but they’re still a potent team with stifling perimeter defense and the best backcourt in the conference. But I didn’t want to just stick with “UCLA wins it… again,” I wanted to really dig into the conference. So pretend that UCLA is out of the equation – they lose Collison to a knee injury or for whatever reason the team implodes costing them 5 or 6 games and effectively the conference title.

 

Now I’d love to pick my Arizona Wildcats, that would be a great farewell gift to Olson for putting this team together, and a nice reward for Pennell and Co. who stepped in to pick up the pieces in the wake of Olson’s sudden retirement. However, they’re a very inexperienced team that is relying on three main players and a supporting cast that is largely unknown and mostly unproven. Despite this, Arizona is a strong candidate to play for the conference title. However, to prevent the homer pick of Arizona, we’ll pretend that Jordan Hill’s strained calf muscle is a torn ligament and he can’t play until next year.

 

Let’s whittle down the options here by eliminating teams that even with just eight teams to choose from, still don’t have a chance. First to go is clearly Oregon State. They are barely a .500 team against competition that is severely sub-par of PAC-10 caliber. With losses to Howard, Yale, Montana State to name a few, there is little hope of them picking up 2 wins this season.

Next off the board has to be Washington State. I like their program and their deliberate style, but at some point when push comes to shove you need a guy that can get to the rim and take over a big game. Their leading scorers (Aron Baynes 11.4 ppg, Klay Thompson 11.0 ppg, and Taylor Rochestie 10.2 ppg) are not players that can get terribly physical and have yet to show up against a quality team. All four of their losses have come against the only opponents on their schedule that could compete in the PAC-10. During these losses (Pitt, Baylor, Gonzaga, and LSU) their three leading scorers combined for an average of 26 points. If they want to compete, someone needs to step up.

Elimination next stops in Eugene, Oregon with the Ducks. They lost a lot of talent gone to wasted efforts last year, and brought in a solid recruiting class. Their youth isn’t coming along as quickly as Ernie Kent would probably like, and they’ve lost a couple ugly games because of it. If I were going strictly by record, they’d be off the board before WSU; However, they do have a good amount of talent and finally have a good inside presence with Michael Dunigan. Dunigan is a bad performance or two away from having been the Ducks’ leading scorer to this point. The potential of this team far exceeds Washington State right now, and that’s why Oregon gets a spot ahead of WSU.

Picking the middle of the remaining teams is almost like splitting hairs. Stanford is undefeated because of exceptional backcourt performances, and Washington has three losses, and no quality wins, but have a huge frontcourt advantage. So who’s next?

It has to be Stanford. I’m impressed with their 9-0 record after losing the Lopez Twins and all frontcourt presence from a year ago. That is, I’m impressed until I look at who they’ve played. Their only reasonably good win is Santa Clara, and only by 8 points. The Cardinal backcourt of Mitch Johnson, Anthony Goods, and Landry Fields appears to have stepped its game up a notch from a year ago. Heading into conference play the three guards account for 48 percent of the Cardinal’s scoring. Guard play is extremely important, especially in the PAC-10. But with opposing guards like Harden, DeRozan, Rochestie,  Randle and Christopher to face off against, it’s going to be difficult to outmatch any team in the backcourt. Despite the performances of Lawrence Hill and Josh Owens, Stanford needs more inside presence if they want to win the conference this year.

Like I said, this is like splitting hairs. Stanford needs inside presence, but Washington needs another scorer. The frontcourt of Jon Brockman and Matthew Bryan-Amaning is the most formidable in the conference and the inside size advantage alone is what sets them ahead of Stanford. But the Huskies are still waiting for Quincy Pondexter to step up consistently and become the wingman he has the potential to be. Pondexter has only had three of those games this year with 21 points, 16 points, and 14 points, but not one of them against a good defensive team. The Huskies’ backcourt consists of the forementioned Pondexter and two guards under six-feet – Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon. Thomas is the second-leading scorer with 14.8 ppg followed by Dentmon at 12.4. These two guards have the capability to get to the rim, draw the foul, and shoot from beyond the arc. But guards under six foot have a history of falling off the table during conference play. When matching up against taller guards like Collison of UCLA, or Fogg of Arizona the height becomes a huge disadvantage. Clearly, if Washington wants the title they need a guard taller than 6′ to step up – namely Quincy Pondexter.

The remaining three teams are clearly head and shoulders above the five I’ve already covered. And picking the gem amongst them is extremely difficult. I know that no matter what order I put them in, there is going to be debate and argument over it. Each team has a solid case for the best of the group, but ultimately I feel it comes down to who has the most rounded unit combined with coaching ability. Since coaching adjustments, team management, and the fact that when push comes to shove the coach is blamed if they fail and only given a quiet congratulations if they succeed, the head coach has to be the distinguishing factor amongst these three teams.

For that reason, USC has to come off the board. Tim Floyd has done a good job with these kids. They play a very physical and aggressive style of basketball. Combined with four legitimate scorers and you’ve got a recipe for success. But my problem with this team comes back to Tim Floyd. It isn’t their style or abilities that has me concerned. It’s the fact that Floyd has permitted this program to become merely a stepping stone for players like Mayo and DeRozan to take until they are allowed to move on to the NBA. That type of individual play leads to turnovers (conference high 16.8 per game), and will ultimately cost them games against teams with better chemistry. It’s Floyd’s job to counter that, and I don’t believe he’s capable of it – after all, it was his recruiting that built that scenario.

 

So now we’re down to Arizona State and CAL. An easy pick if you listen to the media, right? Wrong. Take a look at both teams stats. Statistically they are almost identical with the majority of their scoring coming from four players, and fewer than 5 point per game from the rest. The largest separation between the two teams, statistically, is opponents points per game. CAL is giving up 64.3 while ASU is only 58. So who do you take? I go with CAL.

First while Arizona State has gotten additional help from Rihards Kuksiks, who has doubled his ppg production from a year ago up to 10.8 points per game, they still don’t get consistent production from anyone except James Harden, and that’s a problem. Arizona State is only as good as Harden performs within his team. Want proof? Look no further than the IUPUI and BYU games. Against IUPUI he didn’t show up and was too busy talking with Amare Stoudemire behind the ASU bench to care. He tallied 9 points and ASU got lucky with a one-point win. The other problem is if he becomes selfish against a good team. Harden dropped 30 on a good BYU team, but ASU struggled to a controversial win – another one point margin. Harden can carry the Sun Devils far, but when teams like UCLA make him the defensive focal point as they did last year, Harden becomes ineffective as a team player and ASU struggles. If the Sun Devils  want to be best out of this group it’s going to take a team effort and more than the Harden/Jeff Pendergraph combo to do it

Once again, it comes down to team chemistry and how well they play as a collective unit and how much faith I have in the coach. This CAL team has had the most talent in the conference, outside of UCLA, for the past couple of years, but hasn’t been able to capitalize on it under Ben Braun. With the hiring of Mike Montgomery this team almost instantly became better. Montgomery has these kids playing hard, shooting well, and playing as a team.  CAL is getting great production from all over the court. They have the size to compete with Brockman & Washington, and the guards to compete with anybody in the conference. That’s why I have CAL ahead of USC, ahead of ASU, but just barely. 

So when it comes to contenders and pretenders it is pretty clear. Stanford and the schools from Oregon and Washington are pretenders who will make their way to a first round exit from the PAC-10 Tournament and perhaps an NIT invite. Leaving the PAC-10 crown to be contested by the LA area schools, the Arizona schools, and CAL.

Posted in NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »