NBE Basketball Report
Raphielle Johnson

BIG SKY TOURNAMENT: COULD GRIZZLIES, WILDCATS MEET AGAIN?

March 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Tournament Central

 

Through the use of a 20-game full round-robin schedule there’s little doubt as to who the two best teams in the Big Sky are. Montana (19-1) once again won the league’s regular season title, with Weber State’s (18-2) loss at Montana State back in late January being the difference between the two teams. As a result Wayne Tinkle’s team gets home-court advantage for the conference tournament and a bye to the semifinals as only the top seven teams in the Big Sky qualify for the event.

 

But this isn’t a group in the best of health, as leading scorer Mathias Ward is done for the season with a foot injury and senior guard Will Cherry (hopefully) returning from his own foot ailment. As a result more will be asked of league MVP Kareem Jamar, arguably the most versatile player in the Big Sky. Cherry’s probable return will definitely help Montana, but they’ll need players such as Keron DeShields, Jordan Gregory and Spencer Coleman to step up if they’re to return to the NCAA tournament.

 

Despite they’re having to win three games instead of two, and the possibility of playing Montana on the road in the title game, Weber State should be seen as the favorite to win the Big Sky tournament due to their superior depth. Randy Rahe can go eight players deep if needed, led by guards Davion Berry and Scott Bamforth and forward Kyle Tresnak. Weber State lost by just two at Montana on January 26 (76-74), blowing the Grizzlies out in their second meeting last month (87-63). Weber State’s been the best team in the conference on both ends of the floor, and unless they’re hit hard by the injury bug this weekend it’s difficult to see that changing.

 

While Montana and Weber State are the favorites to meet on Saturday night, are there any teams capable of pulling off an upset before then? Troy Huff leads a North Dakota program that won 12 conference games in its Big Sky debut, but outside of he and Aaron Anderson this is a team that can struggle offensively at times. They’ll take on fellow newcomer Southern Utah, a team few expected to even qualify for the Big Sky tournament when the season began. Northern Colorado takes on Montana State in the 4/5 matchup, and first-year coach Jack Murphy will look to pull the upset when Northern Arizona battles Weber State.

 

So who’s the pick to win the Big Sky tournament? The depth issue noted above lends itself to Weber State avenging last year’s title game loss at Dahlberg Arena, and that group was led by Damian Lillard. The Wildcats have been the conference’s most efficient team on both ends of the floor, and having to play one extra game won’t change that fact.

 

Postseason Honors (as voted by the coaches)

 

First Team

Kareem Jamar          Montana        G/F     6-5     Jr.       Venice, Calif.

Will Cherry    Montana        G        6-1     Sr.      West Oakland, Calif.

Troy Huff        North Dakota            G/F     6-5     Jr.       Milwaukee, Wisc.

Gabe Rogers            Northern Arizona     G        6-2     Sr.      Houston, Texas

Derrick Barden         Northern Colorado  F         6-5     Jr.       Detroit, Mich.

Davion Berry Weber State G/F     6-4     Jr.       Oakland, Calif.

Scott Bamforth          Weber State G/F     6-2     Sr.      Albuquerque, N.M.

 

Second Team

Mathias Ward            Montana        F         6-7     Sr.      Gig Harbor, Wash.

Aaron Anderson       North Dakota            G        5-10   Jr.       Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Tate Unruh    Northern Colorado  G        6-4     Jr.       Branson, Mo.

Jackson Stevenett    Southern Utah         G        6-4     Sr.      Kaysville, Utah

Damon Heuir            Southern Utah         G        6-2     Sr.      Townsville, Queesland, Australia

Kyle Tresnak Weber State C        6-10   Jr.       Scottsdale, Ariz.

 

Honorable Mention

Venky Jois     Eastern Washington           G        6-7     Fr.      Boronia, Australia

Chris Hansen            Idaho State   G/F     6-4     So.     Fort Collins, Colo.

Jordan Gregory         Montana        G        6-2     So.     Pueblo, Colo.

Flavien Davis            Montana State         F         6-5     Jr.       Milwaukee, Wisc.

Christian Moon         Montana State         G        6-2     Sr.      Inkster, Mich.

Stallon Saldivar        Northern Arizona     G        6-0     Sr.      Salt Lake City, Utah

Aaron Moore Portland State          F         6-8     Jr.       Riverside, Calif.

John Dickson            Sacramento State   F         6-6     Sr.      San Francisco, Calif.

Dylan Garrity Sacramento State   G        6-2     So.     Huntington Beach, Calif.

Frank Otis      Weber State F         6-6     Sr.      Oakland, Calif.

 

MVP: Kareem Jamar (Montana)

Newcomer of the Year: Davion Berry (Weber State)

Freshman of the Year: Venky Jois (Eastern Washington)

Defensive Player of the Year: Will Cherry (Montana)

BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: 49ERS LEAD COMPETITIVE FIELD

March 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Tournament Central

 

With the addition of Hawai’i to the Big West only the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, and this season’s edition should be more suspenseful than last year’s. Long Beach State won the regular season title outright for the third straight season but this group isn’t as dominant as the one led by Casper Ware in 2012-13. James Ennis was named Big West Player of the Year and point guard Mike Caffey was also a first-team all-conference selection, and with some key transfers this group has plenty of talent.

 

But the 49ers are coming off of a 20-point loss at Pacific in the regular season finale, and there are four other teams with realistic hopes of winning the league’s automatic bid. The Tigers would be one, and they’re hoping to go out on top as they’re headed to the WCC at the end of the year. Pacific doesn’t light up the scoreboard as Lorenzo McCloud is the only player averaging double figures, but they shoot well from the perimeter and are solid defensively. And with this being head coach Bob Thomason’s final season before he retires, one would think that this group is motivated to send him off with a title and an NCAA tournament appearance.

 

Cal Poly has the look of a slightly higher-scoring version of Pacific, with forward Chris Eversley their lone double-digit scorer, and they’re every bit as capable of winning three games in Anaheim. Keep in mind the fact that the Mustangs won at UCLA (before the Bruins hit their stride of course) earlier in the season, and regardless of the Bruins’ struggles at the time that isn’t expected to happen. And the final quarterfinal of the day matches UC Irvine and Hawai’i, with both teams having the front court depth needed to give Long Beach State some trouble in the paint.

 

Michael Wilder, Will Davis II and Adam Folker lead the way inside for Russell Turner’s Anteaters, who frankly are a year ahead of schedule when it comes to their contending in the Big West. Freshman guard Alex Young was Big West Co-Freshman of the Year, as he’s been a valuable piece for Irvine all season long. As for the Warriors, they’ve got the other Freshman of the Year (Isaac Fotu) and two veterans (Vander Joaquim and Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger) in the paint. The key for Gib Arnold’s squad: guard play and taking care of the basketball. Do that and Hawai’i, which tends to struggle on the mainland, has a shot at winning the tournament.

 

As for the bottom three seeds all are dangerous, with Corey Hawkins leading the way for a UC Davis team that can shoot with the best of them when hot. First-team all-conference big man Alan Williams leads the way for UC Santa Barbara, and despite being the 8-seed Cal State Fullerton should be respected given the presence of Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley. So with all of that in mind who will win the Big West tournament? Look for a dream ending for Pacific, as the Tigers will find a way to cut down the nets and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

 

Postseason Honors (as voted by the coaches)

 

FIRST TEAM

Mike Caffey Long Beach State 6-0 So. G Riverside, Calif.

James Ennis Long Beach State 6-7 Sr. G/F Ventura, Calif.

Chris Eversley Cal Poly 6-7 Jr. F Chicago, Ill.

Corey Hawkins UC Davis 6-3 So. G Goodyear, Ariz.

Christian Standhardinger Hawai’i 6-8 Jr. F Munich, Germany

Alan Williams UC Santa Barbara 6-7 So. C Phoenix, Ariz.

 

SECOND TEAM

Travis Fulton Pacific 6-6 Sr. F Corona, Calif.

Lorenzo McCloud Pacific 6-0 Sr. G Los Angeles, Calif.

D. J. Seeley Cal State Fullerton 6-4 Sr. G Stockton, Calif.

Daman Starring UC Irvine 6-3 Sr. G Las Vegas, Nev.

Kwame Vaughn Cal State Fullerton 6-3 Sr. G Oakland, Calif.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

J.T. Adenrele UC Davis 6-7 So. F Roseville, Calif.

Kyle Boswell UC Santa Barbara 6-2 Jr. G Huntington Beach, Calif.

Adam Folker UC Irvine 6-9 Sr. C Markham, Ontario

Tony Freeland Long Beach State 6-7 Jr. F Los Angeles, Calif.

Josh Greene Cal State Northridge 6-0 Jr. G Los Angeles, Calif.

Vander Joaquim Hawai’i 6-10 Sr. C Luanda, Angola

Keala King Long Beach State 6-5 Jr. G Compton, Calif.

Stephen Maxwell Cal State Northridge 6-7 So. F Woodland Hills, Calif.

Chris Patton UC Riverside 6-10 Jr. F Melbourne, Australia

Dylan Royer Cal Poly 6-1 Sr. G Los Osos, Calif.

Ryan Sypkens UC Davis 6-4 Jr. G Elk Grove, Calif.

 

2012-13 BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR

James Ennis, Long Beach State

 

2012-13 BIG WEST NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis

 

2012-13 BIG WEST CO-FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Alex Young, UC Irvine

Isaac Fotu, Hawai’i

 

2012-13 BIG WEST COACH OF THE YEAR

Dan Monson, Long Beach State

WAC TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: BULLDOGS, PIONEERS TOP TWO SEEDS

March 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

The time has come for the “final” rendezvous for the WAC, as the conference will look drastically different at the end of the current academic year. Six schools are leaving for other leagues, which could add to the intensity at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. On Tuesday Texas State and UT-San Antonio won their first round games, and as a result they’ll take on regular season co-champions Denver and Louisiana Tech respectively. Michael White’s Bulldogs received the top seed, but Louisiana Tech’s lost two straight after beginning WAC play 16-0.

 

Louisiana Tech’s gotten the job done on the defensive end with guard Kenneth Smith and forward Michael Kyser leading the way. The issue in their losses at New Mexico State and Denver was that those teams were able to successfully navigate the Louisiana Tech pressure, something the Bulldogs can’t afford to let happen given their offensive struggles for much of the season.

 

If you’re a believe in tempo-neutral numbers then Denver is the slight favorite this week, as Joe Scott’s team was by far the most efficient team in the WAC offensively. Denver was also the most efficient team in the league defensively, and with forward Chris Udofia and guard Chase Hallam being among the four Pioneers to receive all-conference honors this group clearly doesn’t lack for talent.

 

Outside of those two New Mexico State is another team to keep an eye on, with guard Daniel Mullings and forward Bandja Sy both playing well down the stretch. The Aggies also have 7-5 center Sim Bhullar in the middle, and his Freshman of the Year award was more than deserved. Yes Bhullar is quite the roadblock in the paint for New Mexico State, but to simply describe him as such would be to ignore his overall skill.

 

Utah State’s had to battle injuries for much of the season but Stew Morrill’s team still managed to win 21 games, which is quite the achievement when considering the loss of both Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed. Spencer Butterfield and Jarred Shaw remain however, meaning that these Aggies have a puncher’s chance of winning the automatic bid. But they’ll have their hands full with UT-Arlington senior forward Kevin Butler, who helped lead the Mavericks to 17 wins in their first (and only) WAC campaign.

 

Of the other three teams in the field maybe Idaho has a shot with WAC Player of the Year Kyle Barone in the middle (the only player in the league to average a double-double), but it’s difficult to see the Vandals, Texas State or UTSA going on a run. Ultimately the WAC tournament will come down to the conference’s top two teams, and despite their gaudy win total Louisiana Tech is in a situation where they need the automatic bid if they’re to end up in the NCAA tournament. But look for Denver’s offensive efficiency to be the difference, and the Pioneers will be the league representative in the field of 68.

 

Postseason Honors (as voted by the coaches)

 

Player of the Year: Kyle Barone, Sr., C, Idaho

Freshman of the Year: Sim Bhullar, Fr., C, New Mexico State

Don Haskins Coach of the Year: Michael White, Louisiana Tech

 

First Team All-WAC

Chris Udofia, Jr., F, Denver

Kyle Barone, Sr., C, Idaho

Raheem Appleby, So., G, Louisiana Tech

Kenneth Smith, So., G, Louisiana Tech

Bandja Sy, Sr., F, New Mexico State

 

Second Team All-WAC

Chase Hallam, Sr., G, Denver

Daniel Mullings, So., G, New Mexico State

Joel Wright, Jr., F, Texas State

Spencer Butterfield, Jr., G/F, Utah State

Jarred Shaw, Jr., F/C, Utah State

 

Third Team All-WAC

Brett Olson, So., G, Denver

Royce O’Neale, So., F, Denver

Sim Bhullar, Fr., C, New Mexico State

Kevin Butler, Sr., F, UT Arlington

Michael Hale III, Sr., G, UTSA

 

All-Defensive Team

Chase Hallam, Sr., G, Denver

Chris Udofia, Jr., F, Denver

Michale Kyser, So., F, Louisiana Tech

Kenneth Smith, So., G, Louisiana Tech

Daniel Mullings, So., G, New Mexico State

 

All-Newcomer Team

Alex Hamilton, Fr., G, Louisiana Tech

Sim Bhullar, Fr., C, New Mexico State

Joel Wright, Jr., F, Texas State

Spencer Butterfield, Jr., G/F, Utah State

Jarred Shaw, Jr., F/C, Utah State

PAC 12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: UCLA THE SLIGHT FAVORITE?

March 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

After ten years in Los Angeles the second edition of the Pac-12 tournament makes its move to Las Vegas, and given how unpredictable this season’s been the change in location may be appropriate. UCLA, with its mix of talented freshmen and savvy veterans found a way to win the regular season title outright but the Bruins weren’t as dominant as many expected them (and Arizona) to be during the preseason.

 

Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year Shabazz Muhammad leads the way offensively but classmate Jordan Adams is no slouch on the perimeter himself, and forward Kyle Anderson consistently stuffs the stat sheet. Those veterans? That’s primarily point guard Larry Drew II, who led the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, and power forward Travis Wear. When focused (and healthy, in the case of Wear), UCLA is a team capable of running the table this weekend.

 

But the certainly won’t be without challengers, as the regular season race displayed. Oregon, California and Arizona also earned first-round byes but only the Wildcats enter the weekend on a win (over Arizona State last Saturday). Dominic Artis’ return certainly helps Oregon but there’s still some work to be done on the cohesion front. As for the Golden Bears the production that Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs will provide is known at this point, but how successful Mike Montgomery’s team can be depends on what David Kravish and Richard Solomon produce inside.

 

Which teams without first-round byes are most capable of winning the tournament? Look no further than Colorado, which regains the services of Andre Roberson and underclassmen Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Xavier Johnson have all performed well for much of the season. If Josh Scott can give the Buffaloes anything inside from a defensive standpoint look out. Arizona State, led by Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix, will be formidable as well provided they avoid foul trouble with just six players averaging double-digit minutes. And Stanford is another team capable of going on a run, led by Aaron Bright and Dwight Powell.

 

So with all the possibilities who wins the tournament? The pick here is Arizona. Despite their issues with turnovers Sean Miller’s team was still the most efficient squad in the Pac-12 offensively. Mark Lyons is a playmaker at the point, and with experienced players such as Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom the Wildcats have plenty of March experience. Look for Arizona to do a better job of defending the three-pointer as well, and the end result will be the program’s first Pac-12 tournament title since 2002.

 

Postseason Honors (as voted by the coaches)

 

FIRST TEAM

Jahii Carson ASU G Fr. 5-10 160 Mesa, Ariz. (Mesa HS)

Allen Crabbe CAL G Jr. 6-6 205 Los Angeles, Calif. (Price HS)

Spencer Dinwiddie COLO G So. 6-5 190 Woodland Hills, Calif. (Taft HS)

Larry Drew II UCLA G Sr. 6-2 180 Encino, Calif. (North Carolina)

Solomon Hill ARIZ F Sr. 6-7 220 Los Angeles, Calif. (Fairfax HS)

Mark Lyons ARIZ G Sr. 6-1 200 Schenectady, N.Y. (Xavier)

Shabazz Muhammad UCLA G/F Fr. 6-6 225 Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman HS)

Dwight Powell STAN F Jr. 6-9 225 Toronto, Ontario, Canada (IMG Academy)

André Roberson COLO F Jr. 6-7 210 San Antonio, Texas (Wagner HS)

E.J. Singler ORE F Sr. 6-6 215 Medford, Ore. (South Medford HS)

 

SECOND TEAM

Name School Pos Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)

Kyle Anderson UCLA G Fr. 6-9 235 Fairview, N.J. (St. Anthony HS)

Justin Cobbs CAL G Jr. 6-2 195 Los Angeles, Calif. (Minnesota)

Carrick Felix ASU G/F Sr. 6-6 197 Goodyear, Ariz. (College of Southern Idaho)

Brock Motum WSU F Sr. 6-10 230 Brisbane, Aus. (Australia Institute of Sport)

C.J. Wilcox WASH G Jr. 6-5 195 Pleasant Grove, Utah (Pleasant Grove HS)

 

Honorable Mention (receiving at least three votes): Jio Fontan (USC, Sr., G), Arsalan Kazemi (ORE, Sr., F), Roberto Nelson (OSU, Jr., G), Jason Washburn (UTAH, Sr., C), Eric Wise (USC, Sr., F).

 

PAC-12 ALL-FRESHMEN TEAM

Kyle Anderson UCLA G 6-9 235 Fairview, N.J. (St. Anthony HS)

Jahii Carson ASU G 5-10 160 Mesa, Ariz. (Mesa HS)

Damyean Dotson ORE G 6-5 200 Houston, Texas (Yates HS)

Shabazz Muhammad UCLA G/F 6-6 225 Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman HS)

Josh Scott COLO F 6-10 215 Monument, Colo. (Lewis-Palmer HS)

 

Honorable Mention (receiving at least three votes): Jordan Adams (UCLA, G), Kaleb Tarczewski (ARIZ, C).

 

PAC-12 ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

Jordan Bachynski ASU C Jr. 7-2 257 Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Centennial HS)

Carrick Felix ASU G/F Sr. 6-6 197 Goodyear, Ariz. (College of Southern Idaho)

Josh Huestis STAN F Jr. 6-7 225 Great Falls, Mont. (C.M. Russell HS)

Arsalan Kazemi ORE F Sr. 6-7 222 Esfahan, Iran (Patterson HS)

André Roberson COLO F Jr. 6-7 210 San Antonio, Texas (Wagner HS)

 

Honorable Mention (receiving at least three votes): Nick Johnson (ARIZ, So., G), Eric Moreland (OSU, So., F)

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Allen Crabbe, California

CO-FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Jahii Carson, Arizona State; Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: André Roberson, Colorado

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dwight Powell, Stanford

COACH OF THE YEAR: Dana Altman, Oregon

MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: LOBOS HOPE TO REPEAT

March 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Mountain West tournament bracket

 

After a regular season that began with high expectations for UNLV and San Diego State finished with New Mexico winning the title by two games, the Mountain West is back in Las Vegas with the expectation of grabbing five NCAA tournament bids. The fun begins on Tuesday night in the 8/9 game, which matches Wyoming and Nevada. The winner will take on the Lobos on Thursday afternoon, and that’s the day that will loom large when discussing the league’s national hopes.

 

Steve Alford’s team features the conference Player of the Year in junior guard Kendall Williams, and in a season that didn’t have one single star (but rather multiple stars) to the victor went the spoils. But the Lobos aren’t solely about Williams, as guard Tony Snell has expanded his game to not only be an excellent shooter but also the player normally assigned the task of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. Add in center Alex Kirk, whose production after missing last season due to back issues exceeded the expectations of many, and a solid rotation of players who accept their individual roles and it shouldn’t be a stunner that UNM won the league.

 

Who are the other contenders this weekend? Colorado State merits consideration based on their 11 league wins, experience and having two of the league’s top newcomers in senior center Colton Iverson and junior guard Daniel Bejarano. Guards Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green (dealing with an ankle injury) lead the way on the perimeter, and veteran forwards Pierce Hornung and Greg Smith are both tough as nails. Larry Eustachy’s taken a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season and turned into a group capable of winning games once they get there next week.

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (3/6/2013): PAC 12 RACE STILL TO BE DECIDED

March 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

With one final weekend of regular season play left to be completed the Pac-12 race is still up in the air, with two of the three teams involved being unexpected participants based on the preseason poll. UCLA, with its combination of elite young talent and veterans looking to make good on a second chance, is the one team expected to be a part of the title chase. After wins over Arizona State and then-No. 11 Arizona, Ben Howland’s team is 12-4 in conference play and re-entered the AP poll on Monday.

 

While freshmen Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad get the majority of the ink the contributions of senior point guard Larry Drew II should not be overlooked. Drew leads the Pac-12 in assists with an average of 7.8 per game, and he’s also got a conference-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.4. With the Pac-12 Player of the Year race considered to be wide-open the Drew’s name has to be in the conversation.

 

The other two teams, Oregon and California, were considered in the preseason to be teams capable of making a run but not held in the same light as UCLA or Arizona. The Ducks received a boost last week with the return of freshman point guard Dominic Artis, who missed more than a month due to a foot injury. Artis played just 12 minutes in Oregon’s home win over Oregon State, but his return makes the Ducks a much better team especially when considering how they take care of the basketball.

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WCC TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: NO. 1 GONZAGA THE CLEAR FAVORITE

March 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Before the 2012-13 season began there was a feeling that the Gonzaga Bulldogs would return to their perch atop the WCC after Saint Mary’s took over the top spot last season. But while Mark Few’s team did as expected, it’s tough to think that the masses expected the program that has carried the WCC banner for more than a decade would ascend to the top of the national polls as well.

 

But that’s exactly what’s happened, as Gonzaga hasn’t lost since January 19 at Butler and enters this week’s conference tournament on a 12-game win streak. Redshirt junior center Kelly Olynyk has led the way, and for his efforts not only is Olynyk the WCC Player of the Year but he’s also a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Award (given to the best player in the county by the USBWA). In addition to Olynyk the Bulldogs have talented contributors such as senior forward Elias Harris and guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., and forward Mike Hart won WCC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

 

It’s known that Gonzaga’s loaded with talent and they’re the clear favorite to win the WCC tournament. But who has the best shot to dethrone the Bulldogs? That’s a simple question to answer as well. Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s Gaels have lost just two league games this season, with both defeats coming at the hands of Gonzaga. Senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova leads the way for Saint Mary’s, which enters the conference tournament in good shape to grab an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (2/27/2013): NEW MEXICO TAKES CONTROL OF MOUNTAIN WEST RACE

February 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

During the preseason much was made about the talent at schools such as UNLV and San Diego State, and with good reason. Both reached the NCAA tournament in 2012, and with their respective hauls on the recruiting trail joining some talented returnees both the Rebels and Aztecs had the look of teams capable of not only winning the Mountain West but also make waves nationally. While there’s still time for both of those teams, along with Colorado State, to make an impact nationally with the NCAA tournament on the horizon, there’s no doubt who the best team in the conference is.

 

That would be Steve Alford’s New Mexico Lobos, who now lead CSU by two games with four remaining and are ranked 14th in the country. UNM tightened their grip on the league race with a 91-82 win at Colorado State on Saturday, ending the Rams’ 27-game home win streak. The biggest factor in the win: junior guard Kendall Williams, who went off to the tune of 46 points. Alex Kirk added 19 points and ten rebounds, and combined those two shot 20-of-28 from the field. The other Lobos: 7-of-23. That’s essentially been par for the course for UNM in road games this season, as they’ve struggled to find their groove offensively in many of those contests.

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (2/20/2013): DON’T LET PAST HISTORY CLOUD VIEW OF NO. 3 GONZAGA

February 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

On Saturday afternoon Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs picked up their first win at San Francisco since 2009, outlasting the Dons by the final score of 71-61. While beating the Dons certainly isn’t a result that many will use as evidence of Gonzaga’s ability to get to the Final Four the Bulldogs made the tough plays they needed to make down the stretch, things that had not happened in the three trips prior. But the question remains for Gonzaga: is this team capable of getting to Atlanta?

 

While the Bulldogs have done little this season to suggest otherwise, there seem to be more who don’t believe in Gonzaga getting that far than those who do. What reasons come up? Gonzaga’s conference and, more importantly, the fact that the program has not reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2009. But while toughness, of both the mental and physical varieties, has been a question mark in recent years that should not be a concern with the 2012-13 edition.

 

In redshirt junior Kelly Olynyk the Bulldogs have a big man who is not only the country’s most improved player but also a candidate for national Player of the Year honors. Olynyk sat out last season and made good use of the time, as he’s averaging 18.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 65% from the field. With Olynyk and experienced forwards Sam Dower and Elias Harris inside (there’s also freshman Przemek Karnowski), Gonzaga has a front court rotation both skilled and physical enough to give high-caliber opponents fits.
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (2/13/2013): MONTANA – WEBER STATE MATCHUP ONE TO WATCH THURSDAY

February 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

 

The Montana Grizzlies had some issues during the non-conference portion of their schedule, due in large part to the broken foot that sidelined senior guard Will Cherry for much of the slate. But once the reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year shook off the rust the Grizzlies have taken off, winning 14 straight games heading into their showdown at second-place Weber State on Thursday night. Overall Montana has won 25 straight Big Sky games, a breaking a record established by Weber State (24 straight wins) some four decades ago.

 

And with a win in Ogden on Thursday the Grizzlies will move three games ahead of the Wildcats with five league games remaining, thus going a long way towards making sure they grab home court advantage for the Big Sky tournament. That proved to be the difference last season, as Montana went on to the NCAA tournament after beating the Damian Lillard-led squad in the tournament final. But as a two-point win over Weber State back on January 26 showed, the two teams are closer than the two-game gap separating them would indicate.

 

Looking at the rotations most would take the tandem of Cherry and junior wing Kareem Jamar first if there were to be a draft. But after that, beginning with the matchup between Montana’s Mathias Ward and Weber State’s Kyle Tresnak? There would be a great deal of debate, with the edge possibly going to the Wildcats. Randy Rahe’s team leads the Big Sky in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and the same can be said for field goal and three-point percentages on both ends of the floor.

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (2/6/2013): BRACKETBUSTERS GIVES ST. MARY’S GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

February 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

One big reason why the Ramada BracketBusters event is in its final year of existence is the fact that there are few opportunities for mid-major teams to truly enhance their at-large profiles. What’s meant to be a game in which both teams can possibly benefit turned into an elimination game of sorts, with the loser finding itself in a precarious position with just a couple weeks remaining in the regular season. But for those who get the opportunity to boost their at-large resumes it can be a valuable shot at the statement victory they truly need.

 

That’s the case for the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who will host No. 16 Creighton (20-3, 9-2 Missouri Valley) on February 23. Safely in the field of 68 at this point in the season, the Bluejays are led by All-America forward Doug McDermott and are one of the best offensive teams in the country. And for a Saint Mary’s team whose best non-conference victory was a comeback win over Harvard on New Year’s Eve, a visit by the Bluejays represents an opportunity they can’t afford to let slip away.

 

“You’re playing against one of the top mid-major programs, one of the best programs in the country, actually,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “You’ve got the star power, so to speak, of a guy like McDermott and a guy like [Saint Mary's point guard Matthew] Dellavedova. It’ll be pretty exciting to see two really good teams having good years and a couple pretty special players.”
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (1/30/2013): MONTANA OPENING UP A LEAD IN BIG SKY

January 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

While the showdown on Saturday between Weber State and Montana may have lost a little luster thanks to the Wildcats being upset by Montana State on Thursday, it certainly didn’t lack for importance. The two favorites in the Big Sky, Weber State and Montana entered the contest looking to either pull into a tie for first (Weber State) or tighten their grip on the top spot (Montana). In the end Wayne Tinkle’s Grizzlies came out on top, beating the Wildcats 76-74 behind 28 points from senior guard Will Cherry.

 

With the win Montana moved to 10-0 in conference play, two games ahead of the Wildcats (8-2), and their current 10-game win streak is the third-longest active streak in the country. The Grizzlies have taken off in conference play thanks in large part to the return of Cherry, who missed much of non-conference play due to a broken bone in his foot. With Cherry and the versatile Kareem Jamar on the perimeter and Mathias Ward the anchor in the post, Montana has an experienced trio that’s arguably the best in the Big Sky.

 

In league games the Grizzlies rank second in scoring offense and third in scoring defense, and they also rank in the top half of the conference in regards to field goal and three-point percentages (both offensively and defensively). One thing that’s set them apart from their closest challenger however has been valuing the basketball. Montana leads the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio and also has a positive turnover margin (+1.6), and while the Wildcats are fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio they’re ninth in turnover margin (-2.6) (note: all stats above are for conference games only).

 
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (1/23/2013): UTAH STATE’S HIGH HOPES IN DANGER

January 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Just over a week ago Stew Morrill’s Utah State Aggies had the look of a team poised to contend for another WAC title, having won 13 straight games since losing to Saint Mary’s in their second game of the season.

 

What a difference a week makes.

 

The Aggies’ two road losses pale in comparison to the fact that they will be without two of their top three scorers for quite some time, with leading scorer Preston Medlin ruled out 6-8 weeks with a fractured wrist and forward Kyisean Reed done for the year with a torn ACL. In losses at New Mexico State and Denver last week the Aggies averaged 54.0 points per game, well below their season average of 70.4 points per game.

 

Utah State also averaged 14.5 turnovers per game, which is two more than their season average (12.5). In the loss at New Mexico State each team turned the ball over 14 times, with Utah State’s 39% shooting proving to be the difference. But the turnovers proved to be far more problematic in their loss at Denver, as the Pioneers turned the ball over just three times to USU’s 15 and tallied 17 points off turnovers.

 
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (1/16/2013): EXPECT A WILD BIG WEST RACE

January 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Two teams, Cal Poly and Hawai’i, entered last week’s action undefeated in Big West play with both have to play a pair of road games. And by the end of the weekend the Mustangs and Warriors sat at 3-2 in the standings as life on the road proved to be as difficult as anticipated. If anything the results were more proof that the Big West race, which was ceded to Long Beach State in many circles before the season began, is one that’s poised to go right down to the wire.

 

Dan Monson’s 49ers enter this week on top of the conference standings with a 4-1 mark, and one of their victories last week came at the expense of Hawai’i. In the 76-72 win on Saturday sophomore point guard Mike Caffey led the way with 18 points and six assists, but just as important were the 27 points supplied off the bench by guards Peter Pappageorge (15) and Deng Deng (12). With players such as James Ennis and Tony Freeland in the front court and Keala King being another capable perimeter scorer, Long Beach State has the tools needed to repeat as Big West champions.

 

But they won’t go without their challengers, as Cal State Fullerton and Pacific are both 3-1 in league play. The Titans are led by guards D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn, and they get their first shot at the 49ers at home this Saturday. As for Bob Thomason’s Tigers, they’ve been a much improved team offensively in their final season in the Big West (they’re moving to the WCC). In wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly last week Pacific averaged 78.5 points per game, and for the season they rank second in the conference in field goal percentage (48.2%) and turnovers (11.3).

 
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS: MOUNTAIN WEST BEGINS CONFERENCE PLAY

January 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Before the season began the question within some circles of west coast basketball was which league would grab more NCAA tournament bids: the Pac-12, which has received a total of eight bids in the last three seasons, or the Mountain West? With conference play beginning this week and six teams with at least 12 victories, the Mountain West enters January in position to at the very least duplicate its haul from last season (four bids).

 

Of course there are the usual suspects (New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV), and with Colorado State (13-2), Boise State (12-2) and undefeated Wyoming (14-0) looking good the Mountain West may be able to grab a fifth NCAA bid. Wyoming doesn’t have the greatest profile, with their best win being a home triumph over then-ranked Colorado, but at 14-0 Larry Shyatt’s team could find themselves in position to grab a bid if they can go .500 in conference play with a couple of those wins coming over the expected (in the preseason) contenders.

 

One issue for the Cowboys, who open with a home game against Boise State on Wednesday night, is the fact that senior guard Luke Martinez is out with a broken bone in his right hand. That puts more on the plate of Derrious Gilmore, who was averaging 11.8 points per game through 13 games. With Leonard Washington and Larry Nance Jr. inside Wyoming should be able to hold their own in that regard, and if another perimeter scorer can step up in Martinez’s absence they have a shot.

 

Colorado State reached the NCAA tournament last season and the addition of 7-footer Colton Iverson has made them a more formidable outfit in the paint, as seniors Pierce Hornung and Greg Smith continue to play well in their assigned roles. The key for the Rams: shooting better from the perimeter, as their 34.7% mark from three ranks 7th in the conference. Shooting hasn’t been an issue for Leon Rice’s team however, as Boise State leads the Mountain West in both field goal and three-point percentage. And when you’ve got Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic leading the way that should come as no surprise.

 

Given the battles that are sure to occur in conference play it’s tough to expect all six teams to end up in the field of 68 come Selection Sunday. But if anything, the Mountain West’s hot start shows that many may have underestimated the depth of this conference in assuming that four bids would be the max. Which teams will be left standing come March? The answers begin to trickle in on Wednesday night.

 

Player of the Week: Wyoming forward Leonard Washington

Washington led the Cowboys to a 59-56 win over SMU last week in their only game of the week, scoring 13 of the Pokes’ final 17 points. Washington tallied 19 points and 11 rebounds as Wyoming handed the Mustangs their first home loss of the season.

 

Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)

Wednesday

9 PM Nevada at Air Force

10 PM Boise State at No. 25 Wyoming (ROOT)

10 PM No. 24/19 UNLV at No. 25 New Mexico (CBSSN)

11:30 PM No. 16/15 San Diego State at Fresno State (TWCSN)

 

Saturday

3 PM Fresno State at No. 25 New Mexico

6 PM No. 25 Wyoming at Nevada

8 PM Colorado State at No. 16/15 San Diego State (NBCSN)

10 PM Air Force at No. 24/19 UNLV (TWCSN)

 

Big Sky

Players of the Week: Weber State guard Scott Bamforth and Southern Utah guard Damon Heuir

Bamforth led the way for the Wildcats in two Big Sky victories, which included a season-high 22 points in their win over Northern Colorado. In wins over the Bears and North Dakota the senior averaged 20.5 points and 3.0 assists per game, shooting 10-of-15 from beyond the arc. Heuir was lights out in the Thunderbirds’ lone game last week, scoring a season’s best 30 points in Southern Utah’s win over Northern Arizona.

 

EWU loses leading scorer Crosgile: As if things couldn’t get any worse for Eastern Washington. Last week brought about the decision of leading scorer Justin Crosgile to transfer in order to be closer to his 3-year old son. Crosgile, who began his career at Saint Joseph’s, averaged 14.7 points per game for the Eagles this season (ranking 4th in the conference). With Collin Chiverton having to deal with the passing of his mother earlier in the season things have gone anything but smooth for the Eagles, and with Crosgile leaving the road to qualifying for the Big Sky tournament became even tougher.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Saturday; all games on Big Sky TV unless noted otherwise)

Thursday

9:05 PM Northern Arizona at Eastern Washington

9:05 PM Weber State at Southern Utah

9:05 PM Montana State at Northern Colorado (Altitude)

9:05 PM Montana at North Dakota

10:35 PM Sacramento State at Portland State

 

Saturday

4:05 PM Montana State at North Dakota

6:35 PM Montana at Northern Colorado (Altitude)

9:05 PM Sacramento State at Eastern Washington

9:05 PM Idaho State at Southern Utah

10:35 PM Northern Arizona at Portland State

 

Big West

Player of the Week: Hawai’i guard Brandon Jawato

The freshman was on fire in the Warriors’ 76-61 win over UC Riverside as he made all seven of his shots from beyond the arc in scoring 21 points. For the week Jawato averaged 16.0 points per game.

 

Warriors make first conference trip to the mainland: Gib Arnold’s Hawai’i squad sits atop the league standings (tied with Cal Poly at 3-0) but that unblemished mark comes with a caveat: the Warriors have yet to play a conference road game. That will change this weekend as they take on two of the other expected contenders for the title, visiting UC Irvine on Wednesday night and Long Beach State Saturday. Last week Arnold went with freshmen Manroop Clair and Brandon Jawato as his starting backcourt and they played well, something that will have to continue if the Warriors are to be successful on the road. And classmate Isaac Fotu has been one of the Big West’s best newcomers, which has helped matters.

 

Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)

Wednesday

10 PM Cal State Fullerton at Cal State Bakersfield

10 PM Cal State Northridge at Long Beach Stat e

11 PM Hawai’i at UC Irvine (ESPNU)

 

Thursday

10 PM Cal Poly at UC Davis

10 PM UCSB at Pacific

 

Saturday

7 PM Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine (FS Prime Ticket)

7 PM Hawai’i at Long Beach State

9 PM UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton

10 PM Cal Poly at Pacific

10 PM UCSB at UC Davis 

 

Pac-12

Player of the Week: Arizona State forward Carrick Felix

In wins over Utah and Colorado the senior averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, which includes a double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds) in Sunday’s win over the Buffaloes. Four of Felix’s nine career games of scoring 20 points or more have come this season.

 

Colorado suffers tough loss then fails to bounce back: You’ll have a hard time finding people who don’t believe that Colorado was robbed last Thursday, as a Sabatino Chen three-pointer as time expired was ruled to have been released late. The end result was a 92-83 overtime win for No. 4 Arizona, a game that head coach Tad Boyle and his players hope doesn’t come back to haunt them on Selection Sunday. But of the two losses in Arizona the one that could prove more problematic was their 65-56 loss to Arizona State on Sunday night, with the tandem of Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski outplaying Andre Roberson and Josh Scott inside. With the LA schools visiting Boulder this week the Buffaloes cannot afford a split if they’re to be a factor in the Pac-12 race.

 

Schedule (Wednesday – Sunday)

Wednesday

10 PM Washington State at Stanford (P12N)

11 PM Washington at California (ESPN2)

 

Thursday

9 PM No. 4 Arizona at Oregon (ESPN2)

9:30 PM UCLA at Utah (P12N)

10 PM USC at Colorado (ESPNU)

11:30 PM Arizona State at Oregon State (P12N)

 

Saturday

Noon UCLA at Colorado (P12N)

4 PM Washington State at California (P12N)

6 PM USC at Utah (P12N)

8 PM No. 4 Arizona at Oregon State (ESPNU)

11 PM Washington at Stanford (FSN)

 

Sunday

9 PM Arizona State at Oregon (P12N)

 

WCC

Player of the Week: Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk

Arguably the most improved player in the country, Olynyk put together another solid week to grab Player of the Week honors. In road wins over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State, Pepperdine and Santa Clara the redshirt junior averaged 23.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

 

Road mojo not there for LMU last week: Max Good’s Loyola Marymount Lions were the best team in the WCC when it came to winning league games on the road last season, going 7-1 in such contests. That hasn’t carried over into the 2012-13 campaign however, as LMU lost games at BYU and Saint Mary’s last week. There’s no shame in dropping those two contests but at 7-8 on the season should there be concern that the Lions may not reach postseason play after going to the CIT last year? If Anthony Ireland, Ashley Hamilton and the rest of the Lions are to get going they have to shoot better, as LMU ranks 8th in the WCC in field goal percentage and 6th in three-point percentage. And when a team is also struggling defensively as LMU is (7th and 8th in those categories as a defense) the shooting woes become all the more problematic.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)

Thursday

9 PM Pepperdine at BYU (BYUtv)

10 PM San Diego at San Francisco (WCCsports.com)

10 PM Santa Clara at Loyola Marymount (WCCsports.com)

11 PM Saint Mary’s at No. 8/9 Gonzaga (ESPN2)

 

Saturday

4:30 PM BYU at Santa Clara (TWCSN/CSNCA/ROOT)

10 PM Portland at Loyola Marymount (WCCsports.com)

10 PM San Diego at Pepperdine (WCCsports.com)

11 PM San Francisco at Saint Mary’s (CSNCA)

 

WAC

Player of the Week: Utah State guard Preston Medlin

In three games (all victories) for the Aggies, Medlin averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. In the 81-57 win over Texas State the senior guard hit a season-high five three-pointers on his way to scoring 21 points and grabbing six rebounds.

 

New Mexico State’s road struggles continue in league play: Beating Marvin Menzies’ team in Las Cruces has proved to be a tough task this season, as the Aggies boast a 7-1 record at the Pan American Center (rival New Mexico being the lone defeat). On the road however? Not so much, as New Mexico State is 0-2 in WAC road games and 1-6 overall. The Aggies were able to bounce back from defeats at the hands of UT Arlington (68-47) and Louisiana Tech (81-72) with home wins over UTSA and Texas State, but if they’re to be considered a true contender New Mexico State has to improve on the road. New Mexico State has scored more than 65 points on the road just once, that being the loss at Louisiana Tech.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Sunday)

Thursday

8 PM Louisiana Tech at Texas State

8 PM UT Arlington at UTSA

10 PM New Mexico State at Seattle (ROOT)

10:05 PM Denver at Idaho

 

Friday

9:05 PM San Jose State at Utah State

 

Saturday

3 PM UT Arlington at Texas State

6:30 PM Denver at Seattle (ROOT)

7 PM Louisiana Tech at UTSA

10:05 PM New Mexico State at Idaho

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (1/3/2013): UCLA SCORES NEEDED RESUME BOOSTER

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

UCLA entered Friday’s game against then-No. 7 Missouri having won four straight games, but with their best non-conference victory coming at the expense of Texas the Bruins needed to beat the Tigers for the sake of their NCAA tournament resume. And that they did, as Shabazz Muhammad scored 27 points and knocked down two big three-pointers in overtime to push UCLA past Missouri 97-94. The Bruins were out-rebounded 50-36 by Missouri but they made up for it by playing very well on the offensive end of the floor.

 

As a team UCLA shot 50.6% from the field and turned the ball over six times, and when compared to Missouri’s 17 turnovers it’s easy to see why the Bruins attempted just one less shot than the visitors despite what happened on the glass. UCLA also took advantage of the foul line, making 13 of their 16 free throws while Missouri shot 6-of-10. Travis Wear added 22 points and nine rebounds, Jordan Adams 12 points and Larry Drew II dished out ten assists in the win, which gave both UCLA and the Pac-12 a nice resume boost heading into conference play.

 
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (12/27/2012): ARIZONA WILDCATS CLAIM WEST’S TOP BILLING

December 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

Headed into the holiday weekend it could be argued that the question of which team is the best team in the western United States was still up for debate. No. 3 Arizona entered as the highest ranked team in the national polls, but another year of Pac-12 teams incurring losses that did nothing to help the league’s profile may have led to some skepticism from outside circles. Add in the fact that No. 13 Gonzaga got off to a good start and the Mountain West has at least five teams that have proven their worth in the first six weeks of the season and there was definitely room for debate.

 

But the Wildcats may have offered the first definitive answer in this debate, although it took a game-saving blocked shot by Nick Johnson to hold off No. 17 San Diego State in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic. Arizona is now 12-0 on the season, their best start since the 1987-88 team went 35-3, and just one of two teams in the western United States that is undefeated. The other is 12-0 Wyoming, but with their resume lacking wins equal to Arizona’s victories over then-No. 5 Florida and the Aztecs it’s tough to put Larry Shyatt’s team in the same category.

 

So why would Arizona merit the label of the region’s best team despite the fact that their two best wins haven’t exactly been dominant? Their ceiling.

 

Those three talented young big men at Sean Miller’s disposal, while there were flashes of the immense talent that Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski all possess, all have a great amount of growth to realize. Ashley posted a double-double (16 points, ten rebounds) in a blowout victory over East Tennessee State while Tarczewski finished with eight points and 13 rebounds in a 69-50 semifinal win over Miami, and Jerrett was for the most part quiet in Hawai’i. As the season wears on these three will be challenged by the likes of Colorado (Andre Roberson, Josh Scott), Oregon (Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods) and Oregon State (Eric Moreland, Joe Burton), which should help them come March.

 

But the perimeter play is where Arizona separates itself from the rest of the Pac-12. Mark Lyons has been criticized by some as not being a “true” point guard but the fact of the matter is that the senior playmaker is just what this group needed at the one. Johnson has been their best player to this point in the season, and with the skill/poise of himself, Solomon Hill and even Kevin Parrom off the bench Arizona has the players needed to combat Lyons’ occasional head-scratching decisions.

 

Arizona’s 15.1 turnovers per game rank 11th in the Pac-12 and that’s clearly an area they need to improve upon as conference play approaches. The answers that the Wildcats may have should they figure out the turnover issues and get the freshmen bigs playing at a higher level make Arizona the team to beat out west right now. But as the season approaches March there will be others that have something to say, with Gonzaga and the top of the Mountain West having the ability to make a charge at the top spot. 

 

Pac-12

Player of the Week: Oregon State forward Eric Moreland

Moreland posted double-doubles in both of the Beavers’ wins last week, going for 14 points and ten rebounds in a 69-53 win over Howard and following that up with 20 and 11 in Oregon State’s 86-79 win over San Diego.

 

How much has UCLA improved? Ben Howland’s Bruins have won four straight since dropping a 78-69 decision to San Diego State on December 1, but truth be told a lot more will be learned about the Bruins on Friday night when they host No. 7 Missouri. The Tigers have one of the best point guards in the country (if not the best) in Phil Pressey, and Frank Haith’s team is coming off of a tough win over Illinois in the Busch Braggin’ Rights game. But the biggest question for UCLA is whether or not their front court can control Missouri’s Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi, who are physical enough to make life difficult for Kyle Anderson, the Wear twins and Tony Parker. The perimeter battles will not disappoint, as UCLA can call on Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams, but if the Bruins don’t keep Missouri off the boards it will be a long night at Pauley Pavilion.

 

Schedule (Friday – Monday)

Friday

9:30 PM College of Idaho at Utah (P12N)

10 PM No. 7 Missouri at UCLA (ESPN2)

 

Saturday

2 PM Coppin State at Arizona State (P12N)

2 PM Hartford at Colorado (P12N)

4 PM Towson at Oregon State (P12N)

6 PM Washington State vs. Idaho State (P12N)

7:30 PM Washington at Connecticut (ESPN2) 

8 PM Harvard at California (P12N)

10:30 PM Lafayette at Stanford (P12N)

 

Sunday

7 PM Dayton at USC (P12N)

 

Monday

5 PM Texas-Pan American at Oregon State (P12N)

7 PM Nevada at Oregon (P12N)

 

Big Sky

Players of the Week: Weber State guard Jordan Richardson and Montana forward Mathias Ward

The two favorites to win the Big Sky opened league play with two road wins last week, and as a result a member of each team received Player of the Week honors. Richardson averaged 14.5 points and 4.0 assists per game for the Wildcats in wins over Eastern Washington and Portland State, shooting 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. Ward earned his second POTW award with averages of 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in Montana’s wins over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State.

 

Big road game for Northern Colorado: B.J. Hill’s Bears didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts, as they dropped five of their first six games. But with the beginning of conference play comes a rebirth of sorts, as a team’s performance in this portion of the schedule will determine their chances of winning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Northern Colorado plays its first four Big Sky games on the road and given their 75-66 win at North Dakota and a trip to Weber State next Thursday, Saturday’s tilt at Southern Utah is a big deal.

 

Both teams enter the game 1-0 in Big Sky play, and the trio of Tevin Svihovec (12.1 ppg, 2.8 apg), Derrick Barden (10.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Tate Unruh (10.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) will need to be at their best if the Bears are to improve upon their 1-5 record in road games. Southern Utah has struggled defensively, as opponents are shooting 44.9% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. If UNC can take advantage of this, they stand a good chance of getting to 2-0.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)

Thursday

9 PM Northern Arizona at BYU (BYUtv)

 

Friday

8 PM Bowling Green at North Dakota (Big Sky TV)

 

Saturday

6 PM Idaho State vs. Washington State (P12N)

9 PM Northwest Indian at Montana State (Big Sky TV)

9:05 PM Southwest at Weber State (Big Sky TV)

9:35 PM Northern Colorado at Southern Utah (Big Sky TV)

 

Big West

Player of the Week: Cal State Northridge guard/forward Stephan Hicks

The redshirt sophomore led the Matadors to a 76-71 win at Utah on Friday night, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the win. That came on the heels of a 14-point, 11-rebound showing in Northridge’s 93-63 win over San Diego Christian last Tuesday. On the season Hicks is averaging 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and he ranks third in the Big West in both statistical categories.

 

Hawai’i goes 1-2 at the Diamond Head Classic: Gib Arnold’s Warriors essentially did what was expected of them this past weekend, soundly defeating East Tennessee State in between losses to Miami and Ole Miss. But that last result will sting a bit, as Hawai’i had a shot at beating the Rebels before falling apart down the stretch. A game that was tied at 63 with just under four minutes remaining finished 81-66, with Hawai’i accumulating more turnovers (three) than made field goals (zero) during the final 3:55.

 

Ole Miss would score 12 points off of turnovers in the second half while Hawai’i failed to register a single point.There’s also the fact that Ole Miss shot 60% from the field in the second half, which included a 15-of-22 performance from inside the arc (28 points in the paint). Vander Joaquim (29 points, 15 rebounds) played very well in defeat, but with Isaac Fotu battling early foul trouble the Warriors could not afford to have starters Christian Standhardinger, Manroop Clair and Brandon Jawato combine to shoot 6-of-24 given what Ole Miss was able to produce inside and off of turnovers. Look for Hawai’i to address these issues in the days leading up to their Big West opener on Saturday night.

 

Schedule (Saturday)

Saturday

4 PM Cal Poly at UC Riverside

7 PM Pacific at Long Beach State

10 PM UC Davis at UC Irvine

10 PM UCSB at Cal State Fullerton (ESPNU)

12:30 AM Cal State Northridge at Hawai’i

 

Mountain West

Player of the Week: Colorado State forward Pierce Hornung

Hornung won MVP honors at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic over the weekend, as he averaged 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest in four victories. Hornung, who receives the honor for the first time in his career, posted double-doubles in wins over Portland (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Virginia Tech (18 points, ten rebounds) and shot 71.4% from the field for the week.

 

Challenging weekend awaits New Mexico: On the heels of their loss to a road weary South Dakota State team, Steve Alford’s Lobos hit the road for a pair of key non-conference match ups. First on the docket is a trip to No. 8 Cincinnati, and with guards Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker the Bearcats have the tools needed to give Kendall Williams, Hugh Greenwood and Tony Snell fits on the perimeter. Alex Kirk could wind up being a key figure in the paint, because even though Cincinnati has some athletes inside (Justin Jackson immediately comes to mind) they aren’t necessarily world beaters in the post.

 

Following Thursday’s contest is a game Monday at Saint Louis, and while the Billikens are still without guard Kwamain Mitchell they’re still a serious contender in the Atlantic 10. UNM won last year’s meeting, also played on New Year’s Eve, 64-60 but that was with Drew Gordon (18 points, nine rebounds). Jamal Fenton added ten key points off the bench, but players like Snell and Williams (combined for 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting) can’t afford to be as quiet in the rematch.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Monday)

Thursday

9 PM New Mexico at No. 8 Cincinnati (ESPN2)

 

Friday

10 PM Yale at Nevada

 

Saturday

2 PM No. 20 UNLV at North Carolina (ESPN2)

4:30 PM Adams State at Colorado State

4:30 PM Air Force vs. No. 14 Florida (FSN)

 

Sunday

4 PM Corban College at Boise State

4 PM Sonoma State at Fresno State

 

Monday

7 PM Nevada at Oregon (P12N)

7:30 PM New Mexico at Saint Louis (CBSSN)

 

WCC

Player of the Week: Santa Clara forward Marc Trasolini

Trasolini was highly productive for the Broncos last week, as he averaged 23.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in Santa Clara’s three victories. The redshirt senior knocked down 68.4% of his shots from the field in the three games, which includes a 4-of-6 week from beyond the arc.

 

No. 13 Gonzaga takes on the Big 12: Mark Few has never been one to duck a challenge when it comes to non-conference scheduling, and that remains the case as the Bulldogs will face two of the better teams in the Big 12 this weekend. Friday night the Baylor Bears visit Spokane, and it will be interesting to see whether or not Baylor’s guards can tightly guard Kevin Pangos and Gonzaga’s solid shooters. The Bulldogs haven’t shown the greatest ability to beat people off the dribble to create offensive advantages, and if that remains the case against Baylor (opponents shoot 41.9% against Baylor) things could get tight at The Kennel.

 

On Monday evening Gonzaga visits No. 22 Oklahoma State, which to this point in the season has looked like Kansas’ biggest threat in the Big 12. Marcus Smart has been very good at the point for the Cowboys, Phil Forte is a high-level shooter and Le’Bryan Nash can pose matchup problems for any opponent he faces. Win both and Gonzaga would have a good case for landing in Salt Lake City for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

 

Schedule (Thursday – Monday)

Thursday

9 PM Northern Arizona at BYU (BYUtv)

10 PM Morgan State at Loyola Marymount

10 PM Rhode Island at Saint Mary’s

 

Friday

8 PM Baylor at No. 13 Gonzaga (ESPN2)

10:30 PM Fresno Pacific at Pepperdine

 

Saturday

12 PM Santa Clara at No. 1 Duke (ESPN2)

2 PM Virginia Tech at BYU (ESPNU)

10 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Loyola Marymount

10 PM Dominican (CA) at San Francisco

10:30 PM Morgan State at San Diego

10:30 PM Texas Pan-American at Portland

 

Sunday

5:30 PM Yale at Saint Mary’s (ESPN2)

 

Monday

6 PM No. 13 Gonzaga at No. 22 Oklahoma State

8 PM Harvard at Saint Mary’s (ESPN2)

 

WAC

Player of the Week: Utah State forward Kyisean Reed

Reed led Utah State to a 3-0 week at the World Vision Challenge, averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per contest. In the Aggies’ 79-72 win over Nicholls State, Reed tallied 20 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots.

 

Preseason favorites open league play on the road: Just two days of activity on the WAC schedule this week but they’re important ones, as the conference embarks on the journey that is league play. And things won’t be easy for Denver, New Mexico State or Denver as all three are on the road to take on the members located in either Texas or Louisiana. The toughest opener: that “honor” goes to the Pioneers, who visit a Louisiana Tech team on Saturday that’s been among the stingiest in the WAC as opponents are scoring just 64.5 points per game.

 

But that distinction does come with a caveat, as Louisiana Tech is eighth in the conference in field goal percentage defense (40.8%). Guards Raheem Appleby and Cordarius Johnson have been one of the best tandems in the WAC, which will pose a challenge for Denver forwards Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia. New Mexico State takes its shot at Louisiana Tech in Ruston on Monday night, while Utah State visits UTSA and Texas State. That schedule may give Stew Morrill’s team the early edge given Texas State being predicted to finish in the lower region of the WAC standings, but it will all even out. Such is the advantage of having a full round-robin.

 

Schedule (Saturday – Monday)

Saturday

5 PM San Jose State at Texas State

7 PM Utah State at UTSA

8 PM New Mexico State at UT-Arlington

8 PM Denver at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)

10 PM Idaho at Seattle (ROOT)

 

Monday

3 PM Denver at UT-Arlington

3 PM San Jose State at UTSA

5 PM Utah State at Texas State

8 PM New Mexico State at Louisiana Tech

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (12/20/2012): HOLIDAY SEASON BRINGS ELIGIBLE MID-YEAR TRANSFERS

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

For many teams across the country the end of the fall semester takes on added importance, as mid-year transfers are completing the year in residency the NCAA requires of student-athletes that go from one four-year school to another. While the governing body has become a bit more lenient in the handing out of waivers that make players eligible immediately, the numbers tend to be tilted in the direction of having to sit out. And if a program enters the season shorthanded, those mid-year players become even more important.

 

That’s the case with a few of the teams on the west coast, with Long Beach State immediately coming to mind. The plight of Dan Monson’s club has been discussed here ad nauseum, as the reigning Big West champions played the bulk of their non-conference schedule with just nine available players. And while Loyola Marymount transfer Edgar Garibay was available in the 49ers’ 89-70 loss at UCLA Keala King and Tony Freeland weren’t, and that made a big difference against the Bruins. Garibay played just six minutes in the loss, but truth be told King and Freeland are the mid-year additions expected to have a major impact for the 49ers.

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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (12/12/2012): UNLV HAS ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE WITH MOSER OUT

December 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

With 15:16 remaining in the first half of UNLV’s 76-75 win over California on Sunday evening the one thing the Runnin’ Rebels could not afford to have happen did. Junior forward Mike Moser went down with a dislocated right elbow, and the absolute worst was feared for UNLV’s best returnee. Dave Rice received “good” news in regards to the timeframe for Moser’s recovery, as no MRI was needed and there’s the thought that Moser could be back in time for the start of Mountain West play next month.

 

But the question remains: who will step up with Moser out of the lineup?

 

UNLV received a strong answer in the affirmative from freshman Anthony Bennett, as he tallied 25 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. That came on the heels of putting up 18 points and six rebounds in a win at Portland, a game Moser missed due to a hip flexor. Bennett is leading the way with averages of 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, so he’s been productive even when Moser’s been on the floor. But there was another key contribution on Sunday night, one that could have an impact well into March if UNLV is fortunate.

 

Bryce Dejean-Jones entered Sunday’s game mired in a four-game shooting slump, scoring a total of 16 points on 5-of-25 shooting from the field (1-of-9 3PT). Dejean-Jones’ numbers on Sunday: 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting (2-of-4 3PT), providing UNLV with the boost needed to make sure Quintrell Thomas’ bucket in the final seconds proved to be the difference. Both Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt will be key figures offensively for the Rebels with Anthony Marshall having to run the show, thus turning him into more of a distributor.
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LEFT COAST LAYUPS (12/5/2012): LEON RICE’S BOISE ST. BRONCOS OFF TO A GOOD START

December 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raphielle Johnson

 

During the preseason the general consensus in regards to the Boise State Broncos seemed to be that Leon Rice’s team of sophomores and juniors were a year away from being a factor in the conference race. Of course with the Broncos off to the Big West after this season that wouldn’t do Boise State much good in the Mountain West this season. But after Boise State’s 83-70 win at then-No. 11 Creighton last week there may be a need to re-evaluate the polls that picked the Broncos to finish 9th in the ten-team Mountain West.

 

Guard Derrick Marks went off in the second half of that victory, scoring 28 of his career-high 35 points in the game’s final 20 minutes. As a team Boise State shot 60% from the field and 53% from beyond the arc, numbers that when combined with a 32-19 edge on the boards makes pulling off an upset on the road all the more possible. And don’t let Marks’ performance fool you into thinking that this is a one-man team, as Anthony Drmic was one of the Mountain West’s best freshmen last season and overall the Broncos have six players averaging at least 7.0 points per game.
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