Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘USC Trojans’

Pac-10 Week in Review (Nov. 17- Nov.25)

Posted by Patrick on November 26, 2008

http://obscuresportsquarterly.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/pac103.jpg

Here is how the Pac-10 teams have fared thus far:

Arizona: 3-1 (3-1 this week)- I feel terrible for any Wildcats fan after that disaster against UAB. I don’t understand how a team as talented as Arizona and with some very experienced players can let that happen to themselves. So, they don’t take the trip to Madison Square Garden, but Arizona still showed a solid effort in a close win against Santa Clara, and if things go their way should be 5-1 heading into the game away at Texas A&M next week.

Wildcats Player of the Week: Chase Budinger- 23.5 points 5.3 rebounds 2.8 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/30 vs. Northern Arizona, 12/2 vs. Loyola Marymount

Arizona State: 3-0 (2-0 this week)- James Harden is proving why is one of the best players in the nation, putting up 33 points against Pepperdine on Monday night. Arizona State also had a signature win on the road against San Diego State earlier in the week. The Sun Devils will continue to benefit from a pretty easy schedule, except the Anaheim Classic this week which features Wake Forest as another top team in the field.

Sun Devils Player of the Week: James Harden- 25.5 points 8.5 rebounds 2.5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/27-11/29 Anaheim Classic (First game vs. Charlotte)

California: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- California has four players that are starting to emerge as leaders on the roster: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin. The Golden Bears have taken advantage of an easy schedule so far, but now they have six games in a row against formidable opponents.

Golden Bears Player of the Week: Jerome Randle- 18.3 points 5.3 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 at UNLV, 12/3 vs. DePaul

Oregon: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Oregon lost to Oakland (Mich.) for the second straight year, but rebounded nicely with a convincing win over Alabama in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Ducks still have problems with ill-advised shots, but they are young and freshman center Michael Dunigan is showing that in a few seasons he may be the best big man in the Pac-10.

Ducks Player of the Week: Michael Dunigan- 15.5 points 8.5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Utah

Oregon State: 0-3 (0-2 this week)- Oregon State continues to prove that they are the worst team in the Pac-10 by far with losses to Yale and Howard. To the Beavers credit, they played a very tough game against Nevada. It should be expected that with a new coach, players that are not as talented will have trouble adjusting to the different situation.

Beavers Player of the Week: Josh Tarver- 17 points 4 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 Montana State, 11/30 at Fresno State

Stanford: 2-0 (1-0 this week)- I still don’t know what we should expect from the Cardinal this season because they haven’t played good competition. Anthony Goods put on a show against Cal State Northridge, and Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson are following suit, playing great basketball. However, before they play a tough team it will be hard to know how they’ll fare in conference play.

Cardinal Player of the Week: Anthony Goods- 25 points 5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Air Force, 11/29 vs. Colorado

UCLA: 3-1 (1-1 this week)- The Bruins were exposed by Michigan in New York. UCLA has no dominant inside presence and it will be tough for them to adjust because in the past three seasons they have always had a powerful big man. They play at Texas next Thursday and it will be interesting to see if they have recovered from the Michigan loss.

Bruins Player of the Week: Darren Collison- 14.5 points 5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 Florida International

USC: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Wow, what happened to Southern California in Puerto Rico? Two losses to teams that were not picked to finish high in their conferences, and giving up big leads at halftime. I was skeptical about this team at the beginning of the season because I didn’t think they played team basketball, and they don’t. The Trojans need to play together if they want to make it back to the NCAA tournament.

Trojans Player of the Week: Taj Gibson- 17.2 points 12.7 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. UT-Martin, 12/1 vs. San Francisco

Washington: 2-3 (2-2 this week)- The Huskies have really proved me wrong. I thought that Jon Brockman could lead this team back to the NCAA tournament, but it looks almost as if Washington is worse than last season. Quincy Pondexter is doing nothing on the offensive end, and the defensive play of the entire team is lacking tremendously.

Huskies Player of the Week: Isaiah Thomas- 15.2 points 4.2 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 vs. Pacific

Washington State: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- The Cougars are blowing out teams with their tremendous defensive play, and I think that Wazzu is the sleeper in this conference. Aron Baynes is one of the best defensive big men in the country, and freshman Klay Thompson is fitting in very nicely to the system. Though they have played some bad competition, I think they will continue to win their non-conference games leading up to the conference season.

Cougars Player of the Week: Klay Thompson- 13.6 points

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. Mississippi State, 12/2 vs. Idaho State

Pac-10 Team of the Week: California Golden Bears

Pac-10 Player of the Week: James Harden, Arizona State

Advertisements

Posted in Conference Reports, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Storylines After Two Weeks

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Puerto Rico Xavier Memphis Basketball

What have we learned so far after two weeks of college basketball? That Samardo Samuels looks to be a force. That Wisconsin and Washington State keep on playing great defense. That Wesley Matthews finally wants to be the best player on Marquette. That Arizona doesn’t know that fouling in a tie game is a poor idea. That ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon was a roaring success. That Jimmy Baron is the best outside shooter in the nation other than Stephen Curry. That Duke loves dominating in November. That scheduling Mercer is a bad idea. That NJIT needs to rethink the whole Division I thing. That DeJuan Blair can be totally unstoppable. That it’s going to be a long year for Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

Okay, those are pretty important. But what are the single most looming and captivating stories that we should take away from the first two weeks of college hoops? Here’s a few:

1. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are the best players in the nation.
Okay, we’ll give Tyler Hansbrough an opportunity to reclaim his crown when he’s finally healthy, but these three superstars and eventual lottery picks have certainly filled up the box score while facing “weaker” opponents (should point out that Oklahoma did play Davidson). Harden is averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, including a line Sunday against Pepperdine where he made 11 of 13 two-point shots. Curry hasn’t let anyone down looking for an encore performance, averaging 34 points and shooting 43% from deep. Almost as important for Davidson? 8.8 APG and 2.8 TO/PG, meaning he’s made a smooth transition over to point guard. How about 26 PPG and 19.8 RPG for Blake Griffin? Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain to me. He’s played incredible this season, and even though it’s incredibly early to be ranking Player of the Year contenders, I’m going to do it anyway: Griffin is #1. Of course, these are all small sample sizes (three or so games). But there’s no denying these three are producing up to expectation and much more.

2. This freshman class is nowhere near last year’s crop.
Watching most of the top-ranked players in this years recruiting class struggle mightily in their transition to the college game, it’s hard to not think back and appreciate the likes of Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose dominating from day one on their respective teams. Beasley was putting up record numbers instantly, Love was clearly the best player on a Final Four squad right away, and Derrick Rose might have been the best point guard in the nation a year ago. Someone like DeMar DeRozan is a prime example. I expected him to dominate right away for the Trojans, and while I still think he’s a phenomenal player, the transition has been a difficult one initially. DeRozan has yet to top 14 points in five games and disappeared in two key USC losses vs. Seton Hall and Missouri.  Tyreke Evans has made 2 of 16 threes and went 4/16 in their battle with Xavier Sunday for the Puerto Rico championship. Jrue Holiday seems like more of a two or three-year college player. It’s been the Big East froshies looking the most comfortable: Samuels, Walker and Monroe.

3. Xavier is once again one of the top non-BCS schools in the nation. I hesitate to call them a mid-major at this point. They’ve undoubtedly graduated from that label, so I’ll go with non-BCS. Memphis should take some notes after freshman Terrell “Icewater” Holloway (I made up that nickname, just go with it and make me happy) sunk free throw after free throw to capture the Puerto Rico championship Sunday. B.J. Raymond is an excellent three-point shooter, Derrick Brown is a powerful scoring forward and Kenny Frease will continue to develop inside. Sean Miller also has solid players like C.J. Anderson, Jason Love, Dante Jackson and Jamel McClean at his disposal. Not many programs can rebound this quickly after losing players as important as Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Credit Sean Miller for re-tooling this quickly and building a Sweet 16-caliber squad.

4. The Big 12 looks stronger than ever. Some laughed when I said the Big 12 is deeper and more loaded than ever when I wrote their preview last month. It’s real early, but this conference could challenge the ACC for #2 in the rankings. We expected Texas and Oklahoma to come out firing. Contenders Kansas and Baylor are also playing well early (should get a nice gauge of KU after the CBE Classic). But it’s the bottom half of the conference playing exceptional basketball that’s the real story. Missouri played well over the weekend against stiff competition, almost beating Xavier in the first game of the tournament. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are scoring like crazy. Even Kansas State and Iowa State are dominating weak competition and avoiding the upset bug like some other high majors (Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, etc.) Combined, the Big 12 is 39-2 as a conference. That’s a good record.

5. It could be a down year for Los Angeles basketball.
Stress the word “could.” Southern Cal has been the #1 disappointment in two weeks of play- DeRozan hasn’t played like himself, Hackett is a turnover machine, they’ve shot 26% from deep and 64% from the line. The reason I used “could” instead of “will” is because I have faith DeRozan will explode sooner than later, and Tim Floyd the type of coach who can turn the ship around. UCLA should also improve as the season goes on as Holiday, Morgan, Lee and the other young players get more acquainted with the college game. They desperately need the passive and often uninterested Josh Shipp to bring his game to another level because Alfred Aboya isn’t going to score 20 points on most nights. Early on, the Bruins look more like a Sweet 16-caliber team than a Final Four contender we’re used to seeing in Westwood, while USC could be bubble-bound.

Any that I missed?

Posted in Features | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pac-10 Preview Roundup

Posted by Patrick on November 9, 2008

Links to my other posts: 1.UCLA, 2.Arizona State, 3.Washington, 4.USC, 5.Arizona, 6.Washington State, 7.Cal, 8.Stanford, 9.Oregon, 10.Oregon State

First Team:

James Harden (G-Arizona State)

Darren Collison (G-UCLA)

Jon Brockman (F-Washington)

DeMar DeRozan (G-USC)

Chase Budinger (F-Arizona)

Second Team:

Jrue Holiday (G-UCLA)

Taj Gibson (F-USC)

Jeff Pendergraph (F-Arizona State)

Aron Baynes (C-Washington State)

Patrick Christopher (F-Cal)

Third Team:

Quincy Pondexter (F-Washington)

Mitch Johnson (G-Stanford)

Derek Glasser (G-Arizona State)

J’Mison Morgan (C-UCLA)

Daniel Hackett (G-USC)

Player of the Year:

1) James Harden, Arizona State

2) Jon Brockman, Washington

3) Darren Collison, UCLA

Defensive Player of the Year: Darren Collison, UCLA

Breakthrough Player of the Year: Derek Glasser, Arizona State

Freshman of the Year: DeMar DeRozan, USC

Coach of the Year: Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Dark Horse Player: Tajuan Porter, Oregon

Dark Horse Team: Washington State

NCAA Teams: 5

NIT Teams: 3

CBI Teams: 1

Top Five Games:

1. Arizona State at UCLA (1/17)

2. UCLA at USC (1/11)

3. Arizona State at Washington (2/26)

4. USC at Arizona State (2/15)

5. USC at UCLA (2/4)

The SEC Preview will be up at some point this week. Oh yeah, and there is a college basketball game tomorrow night, in case your wondering.

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pac-10 Preview (#6-#4)

Posted by Patrick on November 4, 2008

The teams that are in the “middle of the pack” in any conference are sometimes the most dangerous. They’re often overlooked, but they still have the talent to upset some of the best teams (example: almost Cal over UCLA last season). Here are the schools that could make some noise in the Pac-10 and maybe even the nation, yet they could also find themselves in the NIT/CBI in March.

6. Washington State Cougars– Coach: Tony Bennett (3rd year)

Backcourt: Taylor Rochestie will be running the offense in Pullman, which should run pretty smoothly. Rochestie is a great outside threat, shooting over 40% from three last season. He reminds me a lot of Derek Raivio, a great player at Gonzaga. On top of being a great shooter, he also plays great defense. Mike Harthun was a huge recruit for the Cougars, and should fit in nicely at shooting guard. It will be interesting if he can play “Cougar-level” defense, but what we do know is that he can get to the basket and finish.

Frontcourt: Aron Baynes anchored this team last season, and will probably do the same in 2008. His inside presence is unlike many in the Pac-10; he has a huge frame and has a relentless knack for the ball. I think its easy to say that Washington State will go as far as Baynes takes them. Devin Harmeling will have an expanded role in the offense this season, and despite being 6’7” he shoots the ball relatively well. Klay Thompson was the top recruit in Bennett’s 2008 class, and should make an immediate impact at small forward.

Bottom Line: A team that plays defense as well as Washington State could go very far this season, but like most Pac-10 teams they are missing something, and that something is depth. Once Baynes comes out of the game, whether it be because of fouls or just rest, they don’t have a player that can fill in on offense or defense. Teams will probably attack the basket early to try and get Baynes some cheap fouls, and Bennett needs to recognize that. It will be interesting to see how one of the top coaches in the nation deals with a team that doesn’t have much depth.

Starting Lineup:

PG-Taylor Rochestie (Sr.)

SG- Mike Harthun (Fr.)

SF- Klay Thompson (Fr.)

PF- Devin Harmeling (Sr.)

C- Aron Baynes (Sr.)

Projected Post Season Tournament: NIT

Key Games: Baylor (12/6), Gonzaga (12/10), Washington (1/3), at Arizona (1/31), Arizona (2/26)

https://i1.wp.com/media.commercialappeal.com/mca/content/img/photos/2007/12/30/s30tig3.jpeg

5. Arizona Wildcats-Coach: Russ Pennell (1st year)

Backcourt: After losing two amazing point guards in the offseason (Jaryd Bayless and Brandon Jennings), Nic Wise (pictured above) gets the honor of being Arizona’s floor general. People may not know Wise very well, but he is a tremendous player that can shoot the three and find people on the court. Freshman Brendon Lavender will be a key addition to this roster, and if he can score like Arizona recruited him to do so, then the Wildcats could be in very good shape this season.

Frontcourt: Chase Budinger needs no introduction. Everyone that has watched college basketball the past two seasons knows that he is one of the top players in the game. Besides Budinger, Jordan Hill is the most experienced frontcourt players that the Wildcats have. While Hill can score with the best, he got into foul trouble last season (averaged over three fouls per game), limiting his minutes on the court.

Bottom Line: This team has had very rough off-season. Losing their best player to the draft, having their best recruit leave for Europe, and having three different coaches in three seasons. Russ Pennell has a great team to work with, but it will be a very tough job and in order to get this team to play to its potential he needs veteran leadership from the likes of Nic Wise, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger. Arizona has the talent to win the Pac-10, but do they have the desire?

Starting Lineup:

PG- Nic Wise (Jr.)

SG- Brendon Lavender (Fr.)

SF- Chase Budinger (Jr.)

PF- Jordan Hill (Jr.)

C- Jeff Withey (Fr.)- may transfer

Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA

Key Games: at Texas A&M (12/5), Gonzaga (12/14), Kansas (12/23), Arizona State (1/21), UCLA (2/14), at Arizona State (2/22)

https://i1.wp.com/i.a.cnn.net/si/2007/writers/seth_davis/02/13/hoop.thoughts/t1_floyd.jpg

4. USC Trojans– Coach: Tim Floyd (4th year)

Backcourt: Once again USC has a freshman phenom that will lead their team to the promised land. This year it’s DeMar DeRozan, and he may even be better than O.J. Mayo. He has the ability to take over games and may be the most athletic guard in the nation. Having Daniel Hackett at point guard is going to help this team tremendously because he is one of those players that you want to have the ball in key moments. Dwight Lewis will also anchor the Trojans strong backcourt.

Frontcourt: Taj Gibson has been a star for USC since he arrived on campus, and this season should be no different. Gibson loves to eat up rebounds and will be the backbone of this basketball team. Gibson also plays great defense, but like many big men runs into foul trouble and for USC to be an elite team they need Gibson on the court. Junior Alex Stephenson (if his waiver is accepted to play this season) and senior Keith Wilkinson will be the duo trading off time at the other forward spot.

Bottom Line: USC is a great team and could very easily contend for a Final Four, but last season it seems that this team doesn’t take care of the ball and had trouble controlling their star players. If DeRozan listens to the coaching staff and plays team basketball he could lead them very far (like Derrick Rose), but if he doesn’t USC will be another one-and-done in the tournament.

Starting LIneup:

PG-Daniel Hackett (Jr.)

SG- Dwight Lewis (Jr.)

G/F- DeMar DeRozan (Fr.)

F- Taj Gibson (Sr.)

F- Alex Stephenson (Jr.)- waiver under review

Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA

Key Games: at Oklahoma (12/4), UCLA (1/11), at UCLA (2/4), at Arizona State (2/15)

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

Posted in News And Notes, Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Summer Pac-10 Report

Posted by Tommy on August 15, 2008

While my colleagues are out east in DC, I’m going to go out west and preview the Pac-10 from my computer at home. The Pac-10 lost a lot of talented players to this year’s NBA Draft such as Kevin Love, Brook and Robin Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo, Russel Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kyle Weaver, Malik Hairston, DeVon Hardin and Maarty Leunen. Despite the loss of talent, the Pac-10 is still going to be a great conference to watch especially because there is such a level playing field. UCLA will in all likelyhood be at the top of the Pac-10 once again but after the Bruins there is a pack of 6 or 7 teams that will beat up on each other, and that is why I give this year’s version of the conference the nickname the “Pack-10”.

Arizona: After a dissapointing 7th place finish in the Pac-10 last season, the Wildcats will try and return to the top of the Pac-10, a familiar place for Zona. Unfortunately, the Cats have a void at the point guard position due to the departure of Jerryd Bayless and the decision of Brandon Jennings to play professionaly in Europe instead of coming to Tucson. Nic Wise, along with other role players from last year’s team, will have to shoulder much more of the scoring load if the Cats are to succeed. Jeff Withey and the incoming freshmen are going to have to help Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger out on the offensive end, otherwise Hill and Budinger will have to do a majority of the scoring. I don’t think Arizona is going to improve too much on their 8-10 record in the Pac-10 this season and will likely ride the bubble all year long. Right now I’d have to say they’re bubble-out but maybe they could ride their SOS to another tournament bid.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek pleading to a ref

Arizona State: Last year Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils burst onto the scene by beating their in-state rivals Arizona twice and by upsetting Stanford, but only to get their bubble bursted at the last minute. Stars James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph return to Tempe along with guards Ty Abbot and Derek Glasser to show the nation what they’re capable of. The Devils will be much improved this year and will avenge last year’s snub with a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

California: Cal is going to see their fair share of struggles this season with the departure of leading scorer Ryan Anderson to the NBA. The scoring is going to have to come from the guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle who are the only two double digit scorers returning to this year’s team. Cal will be near the bottom of the Pac-10 once again and will most likely end up participating in the CBI.

Oregon: After signing coach Ernie Kent to and extention through the 2012-13 season, they obviously see Kent as the right guy to lead Oregon back to the top tier of the Pac-10. Unlike Arizona State, the Ducks made it into the field of 65 with a 9-9 record in the Pac 10 but lost in the first round to Mississippi State.  The Ducks don’t have the talent to make it back into the tournament again this year because of the departure of leading scorers Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen as well as Bryce Taylor. Tajuan Porter is the only returning double digit scorer and will have to use his 5’5″ frame to carry this Oregon squad. Joevan Catron, who averaged 8.8 PPG and 5.7 RPG last year, will be the go-to guy in the frontcourt. These young Ducks don’t have the firepower to compete in the Pac-10 and it will take a couple of years until they return to the NCAA tournamnet.

Oregon State: Coming off a 6-win season, the Beavers don’t have too high of expectations for the 08-09 season. They were winless in the Pac-10 last year and will likely be the bottom team in the Pac-10 once again. The versatile guard/forward Seth Tarver will be the go-to guy for OSU, while his brother Josh will play a supporting role along with Lather Wallace and OmariJohnson. The Beavers will be relatively young and will experience plenty of growing pains with the stiff Pac-10 competition, but could improve in the coming years. As of right now they won’t get a sniff of any postseason, not even the CBI.

Stanford: This year’s Stanford squad is going to look much different after the departures of the Lopez twins along with frontcourt-mates Taj Finger and Fred Washington. They’re presence in the paint is going to be missed throughout next year. New coach Johnny Dawkins is going to have a rough first year with his 9-man roster which has nobody over 6’9″. However, they do have two senior leaders in the backcourt in Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods as well as senior wing man Lawrence Hill. Dawkins has shown he can coach under-sized teams as the right-hand man to Coach K at Duke, but will have a lot to prove in his first job as a head coach. The Cards are going to have to play terrific defense if they want to near the top of the Pac-10 again this season. It’s hard to say what the Cards will do as far as postseason goes but I think Stanford will make the tournament as a 8 or 9 seed.

UCLA: After losing Kevin Love and Russel Westbrook to the #4 and #5 picks as well as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real, one would think that Ben Howland and the Bruins would have lowered expectations for this season. Think again. Howland brings in the best recruiting class in the nation for 2008 which includes Jrue Holiday, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon and Jerime Anderson, all 4 or 5 star recruits. In addition, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp return for their senior seasons in hopes to make another deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Once these freshmen mature, the Bruins have a good chance of making yet another Final Four run.

USC:Tim Floyd has done a great job with the Trojans thus far especially in the recruiting aspect. Last year Floyd brought in superstar freshman OJ Mayo but was a one-and-done as he went third in this year’s NBA Draft. Now Floyd has brought in the McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest winner and another likely one-and-done player in Demar DeRozan. DeRozan will be the main offensive threat for the Tojans and will be supported by Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis. The Trojans have another good lineup for the 08-09 campaign and could be one of those teams to battle in the pack of the Pac-10.

Washington: The Huskies, who went 7-11 in Pac-10 play last year, return some of the same faces to this years team and hope to improve on their record from last year. The main man for the Huskies will be big man Jon Brockman who can put up 19 PPG and grab 12 RPG over the course of next season. Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning are the returning players that will play supporting roles for Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies also have a pretty impressive incoming freshman class with names such as Elston Turner Jr, Scott Suggs, and Isaiah Thomas (no, he isn’t Zeke’s son but has drawn some comparisons with his explosiveness). I really like the play of Brockman and if he gets strong support, the Huskies could be a tournament team but like some other teams in the Pac-10 they’ll be riding the bubble.

Washington State: Two years ago, coach Tony Bennet brought WSU from the depths of the Pac-10 and made them a nationally recognized team. Now, with the graduation of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill the Cougars will struggle a bit. Having low pre-season expectations from the media hasn’t stopped coach Bennet from doing well before, so I expect the Cougs to be competing in the pack of the “Pack-10”. Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling, and Taylor Rochestie will be the veteran leaders for WSU and will uphold coach Bennet’s style of hardnosed defense and offense that uses plenty shot clock. Tony Bennet brings in a top-10 small forward in freshman Klay Thompson as well as a couple of other freshmen that can contribute right away. Even though they aren’t the best team on paper, the Cougersare going to frustrate opponents with their great defense and I think could win a game or two in the NCAA tournament.

Predicted Pac-10 Standings w/ Postseason

  1. UCLA – NCAA
  2. Arizona State – NCAA
  3. Stanford – NCAA
  4. USC – NCAA
  5. Washington – NCAA (bubble)
  6. Washington State – NCAA (bubble)
  7. Arizona – NIT (bubble)
  8. Oregon – NIT
  9. California – CBI
  10. Oregon State – none

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Monday News & Notes

Posted by Zach on July 14, 2008

-Tim Floyd can breath a sigh of relief as stud incoming freshman Demar DeRozan has been cleared to play by the NCAA after receiving a qualifying ACT score. If he hadn’t qualified, a trip to Europe with Brandon Jennings may have followed. DeRozan was Scout’s 6th ranked player in the nation but his stock is flying right now. He was recently invited to the LeBron James Skills Camp and has the most NBA potential of any incoming freshman. He’s the one newcomer I’m most looking forward to seeing this season. USC has a great chance to contend in the Pac-10 with favorites UCLA and Arizona State, led by Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and DeRozan. FOX Sports also reports they’re in the running for UNC transfer Alex Stepheson.

Lute Olson lashed out at the one-and-done rule the NBA and NCAA have instituted for players guaranteeing each prospect have one year in “college.” Olson, who recently saw his most prized signee Brandon Jennings depart for Europe rather than play at Arizona, said clearly he would not sign any one-and-done players in the near future. Sure, Lute. This will last about six months. Olson proposed a deal where high school kids can enter the NBA straight out of high school, but if they opt for college, they have to stay for two or three years. I can see the reasoning behind this only if we start to see more and more players go to Europe to the point where it gets out of control. Then reform is needed.

– News from the CBS camp: Billy Packer will no longer be the lead announcer for college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he’ll no longer be with the network at all. Packer always was a bright and intelligent basketball mind, but came across as arrogant and I never enjoyed him calling the biggest hoops games of the season. I was especially put off when he admitted in front of a camera he didn’t even enjoy sports anymore. Clark Kellogg will now be the lead analyst alongside Jim Nantz, with a rumor circulating that Greg Anthony will replace Kellogg in the studio with Seth Davis and Greg Gumbel. Big ups to CBS for making a much needed transition in their college basketball coverage.

– Andy Katz had some good conversations with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and NC State coach Sidney Lowe about their chances in 2008-09. Thompson didn’t express too much remorse about losing Vernon Macklin to Florida (somewhat hurtful loss) and Jeremiah Rivers to Indiana (not much of a loss at all) because of the instant replacements in freshmen Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, along with a healthy Chris Wright taking over guard duties. Thompson expecting immediate contention in the loaded Big East may be too much to ask; I see them as a middle-of-the-pack team. Sidney Lowe says last year’s disappointing campaign was marked by a lack of a true point guard and the decline of junior forward Brandon Costner, who saw his PPG go down nearly eight points. Costner and McCauley need to step up as seniors for the Wolfpack to contend.

– Some dates to circle for big games: UCLA will play a home game against Notre Dame in a battle of top ten teams on February 9 in the thick of conference season, and will play @ Texas on December 4 as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood series. Missouri, who lost guard Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall, will also be a part of the Puerto Rico tournament with Memphis, USC, Xavier and Virginia Tech. Oklahoma will face USC at home on December 4, also. Kansas State, who added UConn transfer Curtis Kelly, will play @ Michigan State and @ Arizona.

Posted in News And Notes | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »