COLLEGE HOOPS

Pac-10 Round Up for December 13th 2010

Dec 13, 2010, 7:53 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Husky Huddle

Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon told ESPN after Saturday’s game regarding the Huskies, “I think they have Final Four talent”.

Turgeon added that getting UW’s Justin Holiday into foul trouble was a “blessing”. In my last column I expressed my thoughts about UW’s talent.

Washington does have great talent, but to summarize: they have no closer, no well-rounded big man and haven’t made adjustments at halftime very well. They may be able to find a go-to-guy to close out games (my vote at the moment goes to Venoy Overton) and they will probably do a better job of making half-time adjustments in the near future.

The big man thing is going to take some hard work on the part of the coaching staff. Last year Husky assistant coach Paul Fortier did a great job of getting Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant and Tyreese Breshers to play just better enough to gut out the great finish that led to a Sweet-16 loss to West Virginia.

Beating big teams like WVU (and for that matter last year’s USC team), was too big of an obstacle for a team that had Quincy Pondexter as it’s lead Dawg. For this year’s team, big Aziz N’Diaye has been added, but another big, Tyreese Breshers, has been lost along with Pondexter. The loss of Desmond Simmons is also looking bigger in light of the way UW was trying to block out against A&M.

Simmons is a hustle guy that prioritizes focus on the little things. Somehow, if coach Lorenzo Romar told Simmons to help block out on Saturday – with Holiday in foul trouble and the benching of Gant or Ross – I think that he could have done a decent job in that role.

All that is part of the “ifs, ands and buts” of college hoops every year, which also always seem to include names like Terrence Jones and Charles Garcia. None of that is relevant and UW is going to have to do what it did last year and make it work with what they have.

Turgeon can talk about “Final-Four” talent, but if UW didn’t have at least NCAA tournament level talent in the 1-3 spots and the players at those spots were on the level of UW’s three post guys, I doubt that UW would become top-eight in a rebuilding Pac-10 talent wise.

This season will depend on those three guys stepping up, but good news is they did just last season. The bad news is they had Pondexter to lead them lasy year. These three guys are talented, big, athletic and experienced and should be able to find a way to improve their production. Bryan-Amaning is a senior and should be able to become the leader they need to get it done.

Another player (besides Simmons) that will try to help Washington rebuild it’s front line next year is 2011 signee Jernard Jarreau of New Orleans. We’ll be talking to Jarreau on “Talkin’ Hoops” Monday at 8 p.m. (PST), along with former UW forward Reggie Ball, who played at Washington from 1969-73 and is currently the coach at Cleveland High in Seattle. If you miss the show it is always available on podcast minutes after.

Kevin Davis of Tacoma CC has verbally committed to UW, but is waiting on admissions to see if he can join the Dawgs next fall. Davis had 9 points, 9 boards, 4 blocks and 3 assists in an 81-67 win over Seattle CC on Saturday.

Davis was faced with a match-up zone all day, but did a great job of running the floor and dishing to teammates, according to coach R.J. Barsh. If Davis puts on some weight he may be able to help Washington next season with his quickness and speed, as well as a solid skill set. He is listed at 215 lbs. but needs to put on more weight and work on his handles.

Perhaps getting dropped out of both polls on Monday will allow the coaches to get these kids to listen, and to realize what they need to work on.

Washington received 37 votes in the AP poll – 28th overall – while also notching 35 votes in the Coaches poll – at 27th overall.

None of this means anything, except if you just want something to brag about over a holiday dinner with your relatives. If Washington is going to have a successful team that keeps building on – or holding steady (to) – the tradition of the 2009 Pac-10 title team or the 2010 Sweet-16 team, there is still serious work that needs to get done.

Various publications compile rankings as to where the Pac-10 teams stand at various times during the season. Most of the time publications’ are way off the mark – as far as relative strength of teams – more focusing on what happened in the recent past.

I was impressed by what the Arizona Rivalssite (GoAZCats) said about UW – who they picked first in the conference – going into the A&M game.

“The question for Washington will be how good it is away from home. The Huskies have so many athletes and scorers, they’re going to run teams out of the gym at home. Whether or not they can do the same on the road will determine whether or not the Huskies win the Pac-10 title. As of now though, this is no doubt the Pac-10 favorite.”

I think we will know more about the Dawgs after Saturday’s game. They are not yet ready to waltz through a Pac-10 road schedule and shoot 50% from three, while dunking all over the place followed by muscle flexes for the cameras and the girls sitting in the front row.

GoAZCats picked Arizona second in the league, and I’m sure they may be rethinking that pick begrudgingly. They did pick WSU 3rd, which makes me wonder if they might have done something more like azcentral.com’s Doug Haller did in his weekly Pac-10 Insider feature on Monday.

Haller picked the Cougs first after their home blowout win over Gonzaga.

A number of people feel that the conference is going to be very weak, especially in light of Arizona’s blowout loss to BYU, coupled with Washington’s disappointment at A&M, but former Cal player Sam Rayburn wrote an analysis piece on the subject for Basketball Prospectus that was rather upbeat.

“A turnaround in recruiting can already be seen by looking at the ESPN.com 2010 and 2011 recruiting class rankings. In 2010, three Pac-10 teams have cracked the top 25: UCLA (15), Stanford (18), and California (24). And looking forward, 2011 also appears to be a good year: Arizona (9), Oregon (18), and Washington (19) all have top 25 classes. With six teams landing top-25 classes over a two year period, the talent the Pac-10 has lacked should begin to return.”

That being said, Rayburn also described Ben Howland as a “future hall-of-famer”, but I get what he is saying in principle. The conference has had to recover from a lot of early entries to the draft and a bunch of coaching changes. The Pac-10 has traditionally been a league that under-performs early, but sharpens up with a steep learning curve after New Years.

It’s a tough call as to how good the Pac-10 is going to be this season, but I think it is fair to say that it is a much more balanced league than many have portrayed it in the national media. So many pundits have said things like “Washington is the only good team” or Arizona and UW. Some have hyped up UCLA.

I’m torn as to who is the best team in the league this year, but one thing is for sure at this point. WSU and USC are going to weigh in to the discussion.

One guy who was also perhaps a little torn this past weekend was former Husky Elston Turner, who talked to Percy Allen of the Seattle Times about how he felt watching his old and new team on Saturday.

Turner told Allen that his decision to transfer was strictly about basketball and nothing to do with Seattle, the team or the school.

“It was more of a basketball thing. Pretty much it was a basketball decision. It had nothing to do with the city or the school or the people. Everything was great there. It was just a basketball thing that I had to do.”

Turner also explained that he felt his role at UW was too limited and that A&M’s style was a much better fit.

“The offense here is perfect. You’re always moving around and curling, going to the basket, coming off of on-ball screens. And our defense is very good too. Everybody has a part in the offense and that’s the kind of offense that suits me.”

The Dawgs will return to the friendly confines of Hec Ed to face San Francisco next on Saturday at 7 p.m. (PST).

WSU Notes

The Cougs made a huge statement to the rest of the west – and certainly the NW – by demolishing Gonzaga 81-59 on Wednesday in Pullman.

Junior guard Klay Thompson, who earned the Pac-10’s player of the week for his performance, led WSU with 24 points and showcased himself as a much improved player. Thompson also led the Cougs with 6 boards, 7 steals and 6 assists.

Newcomers, junior transfer Faisal Aden (14 points) and freshman Patrick Simon (11 points), both provided sufficient efforts off the bench. One important factor for Pac-10 fans to consider is that sophomore Reggie Moore (8 points, 5 assists) and junior DeAngelo Casto (8 points and 4 boards) are just now getting back from injuries. Moore started, but Casto did not.

Starting junior wing Marcus Capers also logged 5 assists to go with 5 boards, while fellow starter Brock Motum scored 8 points. Junior Abe Lodwick played well in spots and out-scrapped the Zags for three important steals.

According to the Spokesman-Review WSU will play in Spokane for the first weekend of conference play next season.

“Washington State will play its first-ever Pac-12 men’s basketball series in the Spokane Arena Dec. 29 and 31 of 2011, the school announced Thursday. The Cougars will face Oregon and Oregon State, respectively.”

It makes sense to me, as Pullman really clears out over the holidays.

WSU followed the Gonzaga win up by stomping Texas Pan-American 74-52 on Friday in Pullman. This time Aden led the Cougs, still coming off the bench with 20 points, followed by Thompson with 15 and Motum with 13. Thompson was again impressive, hitting 3-3 shots from behind the arc and dishing four assists in only 23 minutes.

WSU looked less inspired after the draining GU and Kansas State games, but the game was over early anyway.

The Cougs travel to Santa Clara next Sunday at 7 p.m. (PST).

‘Zona Notes

Wednesday the ‘Cats had a surprisingly difficult time putting away Cal-State Fullerton in Tucson 73-62. For ‘Zona, as usual, it was sophomore post Derrick Williams who led the way with 22 points followed by sophomore forward Kevin Parrom with 12.

It was a ho hum game from the ‘Cats, but things got way worse for a team that has looked great at times this season, when they were humiliated at BYU on Saturday 87-65. Lamont “Momo” Jones scored 20 points, followed by a weak performance from Williams with 13 points and four turnovers.

Jimmer Fredette literally had his way with ‘Zona for 33 points on 11-22 from the field. The key stat for the game was how the ‘Cats shot 35 percent from the field compared to BYU’s 52 percent shooting.

ASU Notes

Doug Haller of azcentral.com pointed out in a tweet last week that the Sun Devils are really struggling at the foul line.

“Through seven games, ASU is shooting 58.3 percent (67 of 115) from the foul line. Out of 346 Div. I teams, the Sun Devils rank 334th”

ASU had an easy week, only facing Gardner-Webb, who they knocked off 71-48 in Tempe last Saturday. For the Sun Devils it was the guard tandem of sophomore Trent Lockett and senior Ty Abbott who notched 18 points a piece, followed by senior forward Rihards Kuksiks with 15 points. ASU was hot from three (hitting 46 percent) despite their continued troubles at the free throw line.

ASU next goes to Nevada for a 6 p.m. (PST) tip-off on Friday.

Cal Notes

The Bears had a triple whammy of a bad week as they lost badly in Berkeley to San Diego State 77-57 on Wednesday, lost again at home to Southern Miss 80-78 on Saturday, and were whistled for NCAA violations for excessive phone calls on Friday.

Against SDSU, Cal was led by junior guard Jorge Gutierrez with 19 points, followed by junior post Harper Kamp with 18. The game boiled down to one stat, three point shooting. Cal was 0-9 while the Aztecs were 10-22 in a huge 30-point swing. The Bears fought hard, out-rebounding the Aztecs 38-28, but SDSU also blocked seven shots to Cal’s none.

On Saturday Cal got 20 from Kamp, plus a surprising 16 from little known – and rarely used – junior guard Nigel Carter on 4-4 from three. Gutierrez also kicked in 10 points and 8 assists. After going 0-9 from three and being blocked 7 times, it appears that coach Mike Montgomery started looking for answers from the perimeter and came up with Carter.

Montgomery is stubborn on the recruiting trail to always follow the rules and never chase after recruits. He takes a stance – which started in his halcyon days at Stanford that kids show interest to him and then they get an offer – often choosing to not pursue players unless they are ready to commit once offered, according to sources.

That’s what makes it so strange that the NCAA is leveling penalties for excessive phone calls, according Fox Sports. It is probably because “Monty” is so honest that it appears he had an assistant make a mistake and then he turned his own program in.

It is a shame that coaches like Montgomery will be penalized for something that appears to be a mistake – no matter how slight the penalty – while programs like John “Paypal Cal” Calipari’s Kentucky program and quite a few other go unaddressed.

Montgomery is honest and loyal though, as according to sfgate.com, “The person or persons who made the calls are still on Montgomery’s staff”.

Cal will next face Cal Poly in Berkeley this Saturday at 2 p.m. (PST).

Stanford Notes

Stanford had their first game in over two weeks, but didn’t have an easy time with UC-Riverside in winning 55-48 on Sunday in Palo Alto. As should be the case most nights this season, junior guard Jeremy Green led the way with 22 points on 5-10 from three. Junior post Josh Owens supported Green with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

It was an ugly win for the Cardinal, who shot 35 percent from the field, and allowed Riverside of the Big West to stay close despite out-rebounding them 43-27.

Stanford will next host another low major in North Carolina A&T on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (PST).

Oregon Notes

The Ducks had an easy week, as they took down Division III foe Willamette Saturday 100-67 in Eugene, their only contest of the week. It was a chance for Oregon to look good for the home crowd after a close loss to Missouri and a trouncing of Portland State. Just for the occasion Nike made a throwback replica jersey of the national champion 1939 team.

Six players scored in double figures against poor Willamette, who would have trouble against a number of community colleges in the region. It would have probably been more entertaining to see the Ducks play each other in midnight madness style scrimmage, complete with a dunk contest and three-point shoot-off.

I’m not buying how Oregon has any chance at contending in the Pac-10 this year, though they were at least entertaining in the loss to Mizzou. I see this non-conference slate as an easy cupcake schedule to lull people into buying tickets to the new Matthew Knight Arena for Pac-10 games.

Others feel that the Ducks actually have something, such as Yahoo’s Jason King who picked Oregon fifth in his Pac-10 rankings. I find it hard to believe that King is assigned these Pac-10 reports. He never ceases to amaze me with his lack of knowledge, other than stats and sound bytes on conference teams.

I’ve said it once and I’m sticking to it that the Ducks will finish last in the league this year.

Oregon next hosts Jacksonville State, the former team of fifth year senior Duck guard Jay-R Strowbridge, at 7 p.m. on Monday.

OSU Notes

The Beavers got freshman guard Roberto Nelson back finally on Sunday, after he sat out all of last year and the beginning of this season.

The Oregonian did a long review of the Nelson saga – including the fact that his father was sentenced to seven years in the California State penal system – prior to his senior year in high school and his prominent mentions in George Dohrmann’s startlingly real book on summer basketball “Play their Hearts Out”.

Nelson didn’t do much in the game on Sunday, but the Beavers at least weren’t embarrassed, beating Texas Pan-American 89-69 in Corvallis. Nelson had four points and three turnovers in 15-minutes of play, as he understandably looked green in his first college game after such a long lay-off from competition. It may take a while for Nelson, but he is likely a money player.

The Beavs were led in the win by senior forward Omari Johnson with 18 points, followed by senior guard Lathen Wallace with 15, and 10 points a piece from sophomore guard Jared Cunningham and freshman guard Ahmad Starks.

The Beavs were still very sloppy committing 26 turnovers, but they forced 25 on their opponents. The difference in the game was shooting, as OSU out shot TPAU 56 percent to 34 percent from the field and 44 percent to 27 percent from three.

The Beavs will travel to meet Montana, fresh off a road win over the UCLA Bruins, at 6 p.m. (PST) on Wednesday in Missoula.

USC Notes

The big story for the Trojans – which I believe will definitely be a major turn around for them at least as much as point guard Mike Gerrity’s was last season at this time – is the debut of transfer point guard Jio Fontan formerly of Fordham.

Fontan will debut this weekend at Kansas in a national limelight game that will also mark the debut of highly ranked KU freshman guard Josh Selby.

According to the Orange County Register, Fontan will replace freshman Bryce Jones in the starting line-up, but expect Jones to continue to play long minutes. Freshman guard Maurice Jones will start, but expect coach Kevin O’Neill to go with who has the hot hand between those two.

Having a crafty veteran in Fontan – who averaged 15 points and 6 assists during his career in the Atlantic-10 with Fordham – is going to probably work wonders for USC, which has, at times, suffered from inconsistent guard play from it’s young group.

The news appeared to get even better for ‘SC, when long suffering senior PG Donte Smith led the Trojans in scoring with 22 points in a 60-52 win over Northern Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. Junior post Nikola Vucevic followed with 13 points and 10 boards, while senior post Alex Stepheson grabbed a game high 11 boards.

Pac-10 fans only need to look to last year to remember how good the Trojans, who swept the Dawgs, were after Gerrity joined up in December of 2009.

UCLA Notes

The Bruins lost another player to transfer as freshman guard Matt Carlino announced his plans to move on, according to insidesocal.com.

Coach Ben Howland said about Carlino’s decision, “He doesn’t see it long-term being best for him”.

UCLA then beat Cal Poly 72-61 in an anemic outing for the Bruins on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood. Former Kentwood high standout Josh Smith was a bright light for UCLA with 19 points and 12 boards, as the freshman continues to be effective as a bullish low post presence.

Smith was followed by sophomore Reeves Nelson, also a load in the paint, with 13 points followed by sophomore wing Tyler Honeycutt with 11 points. UCLA out-rebounded Cal Poly by a whopping 39-24, while blocking seven shots, overpowering the Mustangs from the Big West.

Many Bruins on message boards reacted to Carlino’s transfer as good news, talking about making more room for big-time recruits. It sounds as if there are some pretty good teams interested in the freshman guard who should be eligible to play again in December of 2011. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Carlino will take an official visit to UNLV this week and already took one to BYU last Saturday.

Carlino saw BYU dismantle Arizona and will visit a UNLV team that is thriving with two Bruin transfers already.

According to a tweet from the publisher of a Butler fan site, Carlino is visiting Butler this Saturday. UCLA gets great recruits, but in my opinion the current atmosphere at UCLA is pushing them away at an alarming rate.

Whether it be to transfer, like Carlino or Chase Stanback and Mike Moser of UNLV and Drew Gordon of New Mexico, or to the NBA draft where Honeycutt and junior guard Malcolm Lee are rumored to be headed, it looks as if UCLA will need to scramble to rebuild the team again for next year this spring.

UCLA hosts Cal Davis on Monday in LA at 7 p.m. (PST)

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Pac-10 Round Up for December 13th 2010