Pac-10 Round Up December 7th 2010

Dec 7, 2010, 3:15 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

The Big-12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series is at 6-4 (Big-12 leading) with two games to play. Those games are UW at Texas A+M this Saturday and Stanford Oklahoma State on Tuesday December 21st. If the Pac-10 wins both of those games, an overall record of 6-6 looks pretty good and could hopefully quiet some of the bad-mouthing that seems to be the prevailing media’s notion.

Andy Katz of ESPN argued on Thursday that teams like WSU stood to lose the most by the series ending, which it will after these two games.

So did former WSU and current Virginia Coach Tony Bennett, who Katz quoted in the piece.

“It was built in for us to have a good game on the schedule. It was very difficult to get games in Pullman. It was a challenge.”

In what was a “Twilight Zone”, did he really say that moment, Andy also spoke of Washington’s high “Status”.

“Washington went to Texas Tech last season. In a post-Bob Knight world, a team of that status normally wouldn’t go to Lubbock.”

Bleacher Report did yet another exhausting and way too early look at the potential NCAA brackets and chose UW as a 6 seed. Arizona and UCLA were chosen as 12 and 13 seeds respectively.

Why the Pac-10, who had more NBA draft picks than any other league over the course of the 2008 and 2009 drafts, has sunk to such an obscure place in the “minds” of college hoops pundits is hard to explain.

The explanation that I like best is that the media continue to perpetuate this notion with ESPN leading that charge and perception has become too many people’s reality.

It will be interesting to see how the conference is spun by the likes of ESPN and their sheep after a new TV deal is struck by the Pac-12.

One thing that seems to be central to the Pac-10’s image is the success or failure of major market kingpin UCLA. Yahoo yoyo Jason King wrote a piece following the Bruin’s close, some would say unfair loss at Kansas on Thursday night 77-76.

“UCLA has a chance to be a very, very good team. Maybe not a great one, but certainly an outfit talented and disciplined enough to return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year postseason hiatus. Most of that is because of the man on the sideline (Coach Ben Howland). There may be a handful of college basketball coaches who are as good as Howland. But there aren’t many – if any – who are better.”

I can’t wait for the follow comment from King after the Montana loss at Pauley.

Doug Haller of azcentral.com, in his weekly not to be missed “Pac-10 Insider” column, pick UCLA 7th in the league. Again I argue the validity at this stage of these “Power rankings”, Doug shines a light on the Bruins most basic problem of chemistry.

“Bruins lose by 1 at Kansas in a controversial ending, then fall by nine at home to Montana in a game that wasn’t even that close. After the game, Montana guard Will Cherry told reporters he could see the UCLA players were ‘bickering among one another’. UCLA has lost four in a row, and to date, doesn’t have a win against a winning team.”

Haller also questions OSU’s Craig Robinson’s comments in the wake of excuses after the Utah Valley home loss quite astutely.

“After losing to Utah Valley, the third-year Oregon State coach told local reporters that the Beavers are still going through a ‘recovery process’ that dates to the 2007-08 winless Pac-10 season. ‘I always talk about the process as recovery, so if you slip off the wagon, you slip all the way back to where you were,’ Robinson said, according to The Gazette-Times. Problem is, with only three players who played on that 6-25 team, 2007 should be a distant memory by now, not an excuse for disappointing losses. (How long is this “recovery” supposed to last anyway?) During Saturday’s contest at Colorado, an 83-57 Oregon State loss, ESPN analyst Sean Farnham said ‘There’s no question Coach Robinson is building his program the right way. He’s finding players that fit his system.’ That might prove to be true, but with every embarrassing loss (at Seattle, Texas Southern, Utah Valley), it’s difficult to see.”

Husky Huddle

Tonight (Tuesday) on “Talkin’ Hoops” we will discuss the Huskies game on Monday against Portland, the upcoming Texas A+M road game and the inside scoop on the possibility of the New Orleans Hornets being brought to Seattle at 8 p.m. (PST) tonight (Tuesday). The show usually airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. (PST), but was postponed because of coverage commitments for the Portland-Washington game.

The UW Athletic Department produced another Youtube video highlight reel for the Portland game, as they stated they will continue to do for all of the games this season.

According to Yahoo, the Pilots put up a billboard in the downtown Portland area promoting Jared Stohl, in much the same fashion that Nike/Oregon attempted to promote it’s players in places as far reaching as Times Square in NYC. Stohl was as advertized against UW, but the Dawgs did a decent job of slowing him down and making him make very tough shots.

We reported earlier that Weber State signed former UW, UCLA and Stanford recruit Kevin Bailey, but it turns out that this was a mistake and Portland signed Kevin (according to Rivals), who is a whale of an athlete and combo forward prospect.

Isaiah Thomas is on the top-25 of Wooden Award candidates, according to the Bleacher Report. The list was most recently whittled down to 50.

Terrence Ross suffered a leg injury of some sort that Coach Lorenzo Romar stated to numerous reporters last night, will not keep him out of the next practice.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times wrote that Ross, “Didn’t play in the second half because he injured his right calf” and added “Ross walked out of the gym in a walking boot and said he should be fine for Wednesday’s practice”.

Chris Fetters of Scout tweeted that Ross, “Didn’t come back into the game because of a nerve reaction in his leg, according to Romar” and added that the injury was “Not expected to be long-term”.

Todd Dybas of Sportspress said that Ross had a, “Stress reaction on the outside of his lower right leg” adding “Romar says Ross will be fine”.

None of those sound like they conflict and it sounds like Ross who looked strong in only four minutes will be back on track against Texas A+M this Saturday in College Station TX at 1:30 p.m. (PST).

WSU Notes

The Cougs started out the week with a blowout 84-36 win over Sacramento State in Pullman WA on Tuesday. Junior guard Klay Thompson led all scorers with 16 points, as Sac-State had no one in double figures. Junior Faisal Aden and sophomore Brock Motum kicked in 11 points a piece. It was over from the opening tip as the Cougs jumped out to a 27-0 lead.

Eleven Cougs scored, while star sophomore guard Reggie Moore and star junior post DeAngelo Casto sat on the bench resting up to play against Kansas State on Friday.

Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports broke the news with a tweet that Moore would indeed play against KState.

“Washington State’s Reggie Moore is expected to play Friday night against Kansas State with a splint on his wrist. Has missed first 5 games.”

Moore and Casto played and the Cougars played a whale of a game, but fell short against the Wildcats in Pullman 63-58. Klay once against led all scorers with 16 points, followed by Moore with 10 off the bench. Casto who started scored 9 as did Marcus Capers, as WSU battled to the last few seconds in a defensive battle.

KState out rebounded the Cougs 41-28, but the Cougs forced 21 turnovers to only 15 for themselves. In the end it was WSU’s lack of rebounding that did them in though as Wildcat All-American candidate pulled down an offensive board with a minute to play that turned out to be the pivotal play of the game.

Ken Bone admitted the importance of that play.

“That was a huge play on their part. We battled, but we did not get rebounds.”

That said it was obvious to me that the Cougs are a strong team that are only going to get better as Moore and Casto get back to 100%. It remains to be seen how much better the Cougs will be in time for their next big test against Gonzaga on Wednesday at 8PM (PST) in Pullman.

According the ESPN Blogger Diamond Leung, coach Ken Bone said that Moore will start against Gonzaga, with Aden coming off the bench.

‘Zona Notes

The ‘Cats punished the Rice Owls of former Cal Head Coach Ben Braun 84-57 on the road in Houston TX on Thursday. Sophomore Derrick Williams (as usual) led the ‘Cats with 18 points, followed by senior Jamelle Horne with 15 points and sophomore Lamont “Momo” Jones and freshman Jordin Mayes with 11 a piece.

The news here for Pac-10 opponents of ‘Zona is that Mayes is really good and to get a combined 22 points on 9-16 shooting out of the PG position on offense is a good night and this has been a consistent theme so far this season.

The Cat’s followed the Rice win with a resounding 83-60 win over Oklahoma in Tucson AZ. Williams again led ‘Zona with 16 points, as Derrick led a balanced and impressive attack. Fellow soph Solomon Hill was the only other double figure scorer adding 10 points, but 5 other ‘Cats scored 8-9 points and another 3 scored 4-5. ‘Zona also shot 69% from behind the arc.

The ‘Cats will next face Cal-State Fullerton at 5:30PM on Wednesday in Tucson.

The Sun Devils had a disappointing week, which started with a 68-54 loss to Baylor in Waco TX on Thursday. Senior Rihards Kuksiks led ASU with 13 points, followed by 12 for senior Ty Abbott and 10 for surprising freshman pivot Kyle Cain.

Cain has thus far beaten out a pair of foreign “footers” in Canadian Jordan Bachynski and Russian Ruslan Pateev, who combined for 4 points, 3 boards and 2 blocks in 14 minutes. Cain logged the remaining 26 minutes at the 5 spot and gives up 5-7 inches to the others, but he is quick, athletic and will likely be a better match-up for ASU against most opponents.

It may yet be a problem for the Sun Devils, as Baylor out boarded them 36-20, including 13-4 on the offensive glass. Baylor is a very good team, some say a professional one, but it appears that ASU may not repeat the miracle of last year when they lost James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, yet finished 2nd in the league.

With the post players they have, in a Pac-10 where teams like Baylor are few and far between, ASU will still get a number of impressive wins. They have great young guards, but this year may be the end of Coach Herb Sendek’s run in the top end of the league.

On Sunday night the Sun Devils had a disappointing game against Richmond at home in Tempe AZ, losing 67-61. Again it was Kuksiks and Cain with 14 points a piece, followed by sophomore Trent Lockett with 12 and Ty Abbott with 11. Lockett, who has been one consistent bright spot for ASU, also added a game leading 10 boards.

This time ASU did better on the boards, besting the Spiders 32-30, but nine blocks from Richmond to only one for the Sun Devils underscored the continued theme of weakness in the middle.

Sendek told Scout that he still feels that he can reach into his bag of tricks and find the magic combination.

“I think we need to pick up our defensive intensity. We’re playing a lot of young guys and they’re still getting the hang of it. Every practice we’ve just been preparing for the next team but now we have a whole week to get ready for the next game and I think we’re going to make some big changes. We just have to hit the reset button and come back strong.”

One possibility to remedy the problems in the middle for Sendek was ASU QB Brock Osweiler, who had decided to join the hoops team after football. Doug Haller reported on Tuesday that Osweiler has changed his mind.

ASU will return to action against Gardner-Webb at 11 a.m. (PST) on Saturday in Tempe AZ.

Cal Notes

On Wednesday the Bears beat UC Davis in Berkeley CA 74-62. Freshman guard Gary Franklin was able to get it going with 13 points including 3-6 from behind the arc. Franklin had been 8-36 from the field in the previous three games.

This is typical for frosh who are forced into prominent roles too early and a reason why teams like Cal and Stanford, though both teams have been impressive at times, will likely struggle this season. One good piece of news for the Bears was sophomore forward Bak Bak, who followed Franklin with 12 points in 14 minutes off the bench.

Bak also co-led Cal on the glass, along with freshman forward Richard Solomon with 6 boards. Starting center Markhuri Sanders-Frison also scored 10 points against Davis, who are literally a guaranteed duck for the Bears. Cal leads Davis in the all-time series 35-0

On Saturday night Cal traveled to Ames IA, where they beat Iowa State 76-73. It was a surprising win over a Big-12 team trying to rebuild after the loss of forward Craig Brackins, a former UW recruit, to the NBA. Franklin went back to his cold ways, but the other 4 Cal starters scored in double figures.

Junior forward Harper Kamp led the way for the Bears with 14 points and 10 board, followed by Sanders-Frison with 12 points and junior guard Jorge Gutierrez and freshman Allen Crabbe with 11 points a piece. Bak was once again a big part of the win scoring 5 points and making a huge steal in the last 35-seconds. Bak had 9 points and 5 boards in only 15-minutes of PT.

Cal will return to action Wednesday against the San Diego State Aztecs in Berkeley CA at 7:30 p.m. (PST).

OSU Notes

For the past two years OSU has looked horrible early and finished respectably in the Pac-10. In coach Craig Robinson’s first season he led the Beavers to a surprise 7th place in the league, after a win-less year before and the CBI title. In his second year Robinson led the Beavs to 6th place in the conference after once again an embarrassing non-con slate.

If Robinson is consistent, then losing to Utah Valley 70-68 on Wednesday in Corvallis makes sense of all things. For OSU it was senior guard Calvin Haynes with 15 points to lead the way, followed by 12 a piece from senior forward Omari Johnson, senior guard Lathen Wallace and freshman guard Ahmad Starks. Sophomore post Joe Burton also kicked in 10 points.

The game was close, but what tipped the scales for Utah Valley was the Beavs cold shooting from behind the arc where they went 5-19 to UVU’s 9-21.

One continued theme that I keep hearing from basketball people is that OSU doesn’t have enough “smart players” to run Robinson’s sophisticated “Princeton” offense. The insinuation is that last year’s vets were smarter than this and could grasp the nuances that allowed the Beavs to beat some pretty good teams in the Pac-10 over the past couple of years.

The thought is that perhaps the young players that are highly rated will become that smart, but are not yet. It will be interesting if this group of seniors, plus senior forward Daniel Deane will have the basketball IQ to catch on later in the year.

They certainly haven’t yet though as the Beavers were stomped by the Colorado Buffs, who are as good a facsimile of a Pac-10 opponent as you are going to find. The Beaves lost it 83-57 Saturday night in Boulder CO to the Buffs, who will join the new Pac-12 along with Utah next season.

This time it was sophomore guard Jared Cunningham who led the Beavers with 16 points, followed by Wallace with 14 and Burton with another 10 point night. Again cold shooting across the board was at the heart of OSU’s problems, as the Beavs shot 39 percent from the filed, 21 percent from 3 and 57 percent from the stripe.

It may be that this OSU team will both get the Princeton offense and thus get better shots and consequently a boosted confidence in Pac-10 play, but it is starting to look pretty iffy. As long as Robinson continues to wow with his recruiting though and media ops, it will probably not be curtains for him in Corvallis for at least another year after this one.

The Beavers will next face Texas Pan-American in Corvallis this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (PST).

Oregon Notes

On Thursday Missouri took down the Ducks at Mac Court in Eugene OR 83-80 in a close game that Oregon almost found a way to win. The Ducks looked good and Oregon fans should feel pretty good about the way that new coach Dana Altman is getting decent produc(k)tion out of his depleted roster.

Sophomore forward E.J. Singler led the way with 19 points, followed by 15 a piece from senior post Joevan Catron, senior guard Jay-R Strowbridge and freshman guard Johnathan Loyd. Though junior guard Malcolm Armstead only scored nine points, with four assists and four turnovers, he led the Ducks in minutes played with 35 and was the facilitator on offense.

Junior Tyrone Nared also played well defensively and showed an ability to disrupt with his wiry frame and quick feet. The Ducks actually look better than last year when their line-up featured a large group of highly rated players, but was almost (the game at UW not withstanding) devoid of team chemistry.

Oregon looks like a team that can possibly scratch out some wins in the Pac-10 this year. I hesitate to pick them any higher than last because other teams will get better, where they look as if they are probably doing about as well as can be expected with the talent available.

On Sunday Oregon continued to win games that they should, by beating Portland State in Eugene 68-49. Catron led the Ducks with 15 points, but this time it was Garrett Sim who followed with 14. Strowbridge kicked in 11 points. Oregon held PSU to frigid shooting, as the Vikings went 16-54 from the field and 3-16 from 3-point land.

Portland State has really dropped as a program since the departure of Ken Bone from the Big Sky program and the Mizzou game looked to ignite Oregon’s confidence rather than dampen it. There may be some carry over from the Duck football team, who will play Auburn in the BCS Title game.

Sim acknowledged to Scout that that fact helps motivate the hoops team.

“I think it does. You see the excitement that these fans have and we just want to bring that to our basketball program. I’m proud of those guys, but once that (national championship) game is over, we hope we can bring that same energy and enthusiasm to the basketball program.”

The Ducks will stay home to face Willamette on Saturday at 7 p.m. (PST) in their next game.

USC Notes

Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports tweeted that a former USC signee who was granted his release and played for Clemson last year has decided to transfer.

“Don’t know if it’s been reported, but source told FOXSports.com that Clemson sophomore guard Noel Johnson is transferring out of program.”

Johnson was thought of by some to be the plum of a 2009 USC class that included Arizona stars Derrick Williams and Lamont “Momo” Jones. It will be interesting to see if USC of for that matter any other Pac-10 team becomes a possibility for him. The Trojans are certainly a lot of the way back from the doldrums that followed the Louis Johnson/Tim Floyd scandal that prompted those players from leaving the USC program.

On Sunday USC beat 19th ranked Texas in Los Angeles CA 73-56 in
convincing fashion.

For ‘SC it was NBA prospect junior forward Nikola Vucevic who led the way with 24 points, followed by senior post Alex Stepheson with 14, freshman guard Maurice Jones with 12 and senior wing Marcus Simmons with 11. Simmons was also particularly impressive in the way that he slowed down Texas star wing Jordan Hamilton.

If Simmons can at least slow down the other teams big gun from the perimeter, while picking up points as they come to him, USC is going to be in pretty good shape in the Pac-10 this season. With a front line like Alex ans Niko and Fordham transfer Jio Fontan joining the team in 11 days, the pieces are there for USC to be decent.

Before the season I felt that teams like ASU and Oregon State would look better and address problems more effectively than they have, but this is too early to anoint USC the best of the middle of the Pac-10 pack.

Just as UCLA flipped from an impressive showing against Kansas in an unfair road loss to the abyss of a home loss to Montana, USC has also been inconsistent. The look of the Trojans against Texas was impressive though and USC fans should feel optimistic that this group could make a good run this year if Fontan is as advertized.

If Jio can temper the high flying, but hot and cold, guard play of freshman Maurice (who really looked like a young Isaiah Thomas against the ‘Horns) and Bryce Jones, USC will be tough. That remains to be seen though.

USC will next face Northern Arizona in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. (PST) this Saturday.

UCLA Notes

The Bruins were robbed of a chance to take Kansas to overtime, when junior guard Malcolm Lee was called for a foul on a prayer of a shot at the buzzer by KU’s Mario Little. With the game tied Little made on of two free throws with .7 seconds on the clock to secure the 77-76 victory in Lawrence KN on Thursday.

Whether the Bruins had it in them to win the game in overtime is up to debate, but UCLA coach Ben Howland was irate over the call.

“It was really a poor way to end the game on that call. It was a loose ball. Both Little and Malcom Lee are putting their hand on the ball at the same time with .9 seconds. Normally, you wouldn’t make that kind of a call at that point in the game unless it was very obvious.”

NBA projected lottery pick Tyler Honeycutt had tied the game on the previous play with a long three and he told the LA Times that he was also shocked by the call.

“It’s one of the worst ways to lose. I would rather somebody make a half-court shot than to call a foul like that. As refs, you’re supposed to just let that go. We had been playing our heart out all night and you have to let us go into overtime and finish that game.”

Honeycutt led all scorers with 33 points, followed for the Bruins by freshman post Josh Smith of Kent WA who had the best game of his UCLA career with 17 points and 13 boards. junior guard Lazeric Jones added 11 points for the disappointed Bruins.

Where Oregon used a close loss to motivate themselves against a Big Skit opponent, UCLA complained and big-timed away in the media right up until game time of the Montana game on Sunday night at home in Westwood CA, where they lost to the Grizzlies 66-57 in a game that was not as close as the score.

Lee was ice cold, but gunned his way to 13 points on 4-12 shooting to lead the Bruins, followed by Honeycutt with an even colder 3-12 and 11 points.

Griz PG Will Cherry remarked to the Missoulian that UCLA demonstrated overt tells that they are lacking chemistry.

“Stop after stop, layup after layup, foul after foul; it looked like they were ready to give up. There was kind of some bickering. When we were making shots, we could see it in their faces that they were ready to break. That’s what told us to keep our feet on their necks.”

Lee admitted to ESPN that the Bruins overlooked the Griz.

“I think we took this team too lightly. I think it was kind of like a hidden feeling that we almost beat Kansas and then two days later we’re playing Montana. Not taking nothing from them, but we just played a No. 4 ranked team and we just came out slow and lazy.”

Lee was in fact injured, “Early in the second half of the Bruins’ loss to Montana”, according to the AP and is listed as day to day. Lee has already been out because of injury quite a bit this year.

The Bruins will stay at home to face Cal Poly at 7 p.m. (PST) on Saturday in their next game.

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Pac-10 Round Up December 7th 2010