Pac-12 Roundup for August 19th 2011 (Part Two)

Aug 19, 2011, 5:50 PM

Oregon Notes

Speaking of depth, Oregon is quickly becoming a deep team up and down the line-up. It hasn’t gotten past me, the way that the Ducks have added talent over the course of the last year since the hiring of Dana Altman. I guess Katz also has taken
note, as Oregon seems to be one of his favorite teams to talk about of late. On Friday Andy talked Oregon in ESPN.

“The addition of two big men (former Wake Forest center Tony Woods and Louisiana Tech forward Olu Ashaolu) will immediately make the Ducks a force inside. If both of these players play up to their potential, Oregon will be a tough out in the Pac-12. Dana Altman was always looked at as a serious coach at Creighton, one who consistently was able to maximize his talent. But he didn’t garner the national recognition he deserved. If he’s able to take the Ducks from the bottom of the Pac-12 and to a top-four finish and a possible NCAA berth in Year 2, then he should be praised on both coasts.”

Leung also chimed in with a similar opinion, though perhaps he has been the one to influence Andy’s thinking being closer to the situation from his west coast base.

“The Ducks overachieved in Altman’s first year, winning the CBI title even after numerous players transferred in wake of Ernie Kent’s firing and left him short-handed. Altman missed the NCAA tournament in his final three seasons at Creighton
after building up the Bluejays as a top mid-major program. Now he’ll have a chance to experience March Madness again as Oregon welcomes top-100 freshman Jabari Brown and impact transfers Ashaolu and Woods.”

I agree with this analysis, but the only thing I wonder about is guard play. Will mid-season transfer Devoe Joseph be ready to lead, with the help of little Jonathan Loyd and how good will the freshman Brown and the senior Garrett Sim be as a tandem at the off guard? I think all four could be pretty good, but until you see a team it’s hard to tell. My gut tells me that the Ducks will be very good and likely back in the NCAA tournament. Both Woods and JC transfer post Carlos Emory will help lone returning senior post Tyrone Nared and the star transfer senior Ashaolu, but according to the Register Guard on Friday Woods and Emory have unresolved academic issues still and are not certain to be on the team yet.

Ashaolu is a player that many have compared to Ron Artest or recent NBA Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Rodman. According to the Register Guard on Monday, “Ashaolu is the attacker for Oregon basketball”. Expect Ashaolu to be a major force on a team that will be much better than Louisiana Tech was around him in the past few years in the WAC. Yahoo’s Jason King also jumped on the Duck bandwagon on Thursday. When answering a letter from a fan who said that Brown will be “best player in the Pac 12” this season.

“Oregon is one of the teams I’m most excited about heading into 2011-12. I won’t be surprised if the Ducks’ season ends with an NCAA tournament berth and a spot near the bottom of the top 25 rankings. For that to happen, Brown – an excellent
outside shooter – will have to live up to his billing.”

Brown will play a large role for Oregon in my opinion this season (which will debut in Italy this week), but according to a Thursday tweet from Matt Prehm of 247sports.com “Dana Altman says (freshman guard) Bruce Barron will be out of the
Italy tour due to a torn meniscus”. Barron (who is former Husky Justin Dentmon’s brother) was penciled in to compete for minutes at PG early, prior to the debut of Joseph in December.

OSU Notes

OSU lost freshman post Daniel Gomis for 3-6 months and there has been no word since as to whether he will attempt to come back this year or red-shirt. That’s not good, but the Beavs got a great piece of news though on Thursday as highly rated
2013 guard L.J. Westbrook committed to OSU, per ESPN and Rivals. According to Rivals, “Westbrook gained notoriety during the latter part of July and Oregon State made sure they locked him down quickly”. ASU’s Carson was originally an early commit for the Beavs that changed his mind and ended up at ASU, but according to Rivals Westbrook’s dad James played at OSU, which should help keep him in the fold when other teams come calling.

UCLA Notes

UCLA was the focus on August 8th of swooshnation’s Jon Jacques and I believe that Jon did a very good job of breaking down the Bruins outlook for 2011-12. Guard play will define this year’s UCLA team and Jacques pointed that out right up
front.

“Even the most optimistic UCLA fan has to concede the guard-play on this squad will be a question mark all season after a tough off season of roster change.”

If Anderson doesn’t play, which I am hearing is unlikely based on sources with close ties to UCLA, the Bruins could have another disappointing season under Ben Howland, especially with all of the great front court talent on the roster. I’m
hearing that Anderson will get some sort of suspension for his involvement in grand theft, but should be available. On Monday ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan said basically the same thing in his “Summer Buzz” on the Bruins.

“When Jerime Anderson got himself indefinitely suspended for allegedly stealing a fellow student’s MacBook Pro, he didn’t just put his entire season in jeopardy. He also underscored the issues facing his coach, Ben Howland, as he looks to build on last season’s surprisingly solid success. Those issues come down to this: front court excellence, back court transience.”

I hear it is much ado about nothing and that Anderson will play, despite the embarrassment to the program. If he does, a couple of seniors at the PG position should make things a lot easier for new, but talented wings Parker, Powell and little used returning sophomore Tyler Lamb. The posts will dominate, as long as their is balance around them.

USC Notes

On August 8th USC was feeling pretty good about things. Dedmon was the subject of a feel good story on the school’s site in which he said (after O’Neill has built him up as an NBA prospect) that all he cared about was beating UCLA “Here and there”. Things got a bit worse on Monday when a tweet from the school’s media department announced that “USC men’s basketball sophomore center Curtis Washington will likely red-shirt this season due to a torn labrum that requires surgery”. Curtis was a deep reserve last season who was not needed much because of the presence of Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. Washington would have likely helped this season earn minutes behind Dedmon and Iowa sophomore transfer Aaron Fuller. On August 11th ocregister.com talked glowingly about Fuller, Fontan and JC transfer guard shooting Greg Allen, after seeing the Trojans practice before their trip to Brazil.

“Fuller is fearless going inside, regularly drawing contact near the rim. He’s also smart, getting himself open on slip screens. The 6-6, 235-pound transfer from Iowa is exactly the type of blue-collar worker O’Neill loves to coach. The No. 1 unit consisted of Dedmon, Fuller, Allen, Fontan and Maurice Jones. That’s a good bet to be the starting lineup come November.”

Things started out hunky dory in Brazil as Fontan’s 29 points led the Trojans to a 60-51 win on Sunday over Pindamonhangaba. Fuller added 12 points and 10 boards and scored all seven points in a crucial 7-2 run that put the game away late. Sophomore forward Garrett Jackson added eight points and a team-high 11 rebs, but foul trouble slowed Dedmon. O’Neill told the LA Times on Sunday that Fontan, “Controlled the whole game, basically” and added “he was really good”. In the 2nd game of the tour ‘SC lost to Sao Jose dos Campos Club Team on Monday 87-81, but O’Neill was still impressed, stating to the LA Times, “Everybody played great in the second half”. Fontan scored 28 and Jones added 20. Jackson was again effective with 11 points and 10 boards and Dedmon thawed out a bit with six points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Even though the Trojans lost, there was a lot to be happy about, with Allen, promising freshman wing Byron Wesley and PG Moore still to join the team on Tuesday. It all came crashing down though on Wednesday in an 81-70 loss to Mogi das Cruzes, as Fontan collapsed a little over 4-minutes before halftime. Other than that things seemed to move in a positive direction for ‘SC. Dedmon scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and had three blocks, Jones led the way with 17 points and eight boards, Jackson had 12 and six and Allen, Moore and Wesley saw their first action as Trojans.

Take out Fontan though and this is certainly a different team. Any optimism based on the Brazil trip reminds me of the question, ‘Other than that how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?’. O’Neill let on his concern to the LA Times on Wednesday that he feared the worst about Jio knee and the veteran coach turned out to be right. On Thursday the bad news came that Fontan had a torn ACL and would be out for the season, per the AP. O’Neill stood defiant though when he spoke to ocregister.com on Thursday. He also stated that Moore would be their PG at this time, leaving Jones in his role as off-guard.

“I can assure you this group of guys, after seeing them three games down here, they’re going to play their hearts out every single game. We might not win every game, but no one’s going to want to play us.”

“(Moore) needs to put his big-boy pants on and get ready to go, which he will. I don’t have as much confidence in him as I have in Jio, because I know Jio. But I have a lot of confidence in this kid, and he’s going to have a great year.”

Somehow I believe O’Neill and though this ‘SC team may be more of a spoiler than a contender, I would not sleep on them. When they add transfers Ari Stewart and Eric Wise next year to Dedmon, Fuller (who was out for the 2nd and 3rd games in
Brazil with a stomach ailment), Fontan (who should be awarded a medical red-shirt year), Jones, Jackson and the rest, the Trojans will be a major Pac-12 contender in 2012-13.

Colorado Notes

No one is second guessing the hiring of hoops coach Tad Boyle or the move to the Pac-12 in Boulder CO as the Buffs extended their agreement with AD and gave him a fat raise on August 10th, according to the AP. Though it appears that the Buffs will also need to rebuild a bit this season, they are also a team that I feel will pull off some big surprises along the way to being very good in 2012-13. Swooshnation.com’s Ed Isaacson on Monday wisely choose wing Andre Roberson as on of his “Impact sophomores” nationally for next season.

“Roberson quietly put together a solid freshman season for the Buffaloes last year, but with Alec Burks moving on to the NBA, he will need to show that he can provide some scoring punch on a consistent basis. A solid defender and rebounder,
Roberson will have an opportunity to have better match-ups in the Pac-12, and if he takes advantage of it, the move out west may not be as bad as people think.”

As I mentioned earlier in this column Roberson is currently listed as the 4th pick in the 2013 mock draft by nbadraft.net.

Utah Notes

Utah on the other hand is not rebuilding a little, they are overhauling the entire program almost from the ground up. Coach Larry Krystowiak is a tough guy that turned Montana around and was well liked in the NBA. “Krysto” will attempt to
build a winning culture through effort over grace I have a feeling. His quote to ESPN on Tuesday made that clear.

“We’re going to get some floor burns and bloody noses while we’re playing defense.”

Though the Utes return their starting PG in junior Josh Watkins and 7-foot-3 junior shot blocker David Foster, the rest of the team is all new guys that Larry was forced to throw together last minute. Though I don’t expect much success, it will be interesting to watch the Utes this year to see if he can get the new guys to buy in and what the new kids can do.

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Pac-12 Roundup for August 19th 2011 (Part Two)