Tony Wroten, Mike Ladd

Pac-12 conference tournament preview


There’s not need to even dance around the subject: the only thing that anybody is going to be paying attention to heading into the Pac-12 tournament is whether or not this league is capable of sending more than just their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. So in lieu of actually writing something worth while in this space, who wants some bubble watch goodness?!?

– Cal: They have a strong RPI and a decent strength of schedule. They’ve gone 3-0 against Washington and Oregon. But their loss to archrival Stanford on the last day of the regular season could end up being a killer is they lose in the quarterfinals to Stanford again? What about to Oregon in the semifinals? They might want to make the finals to be safe.

– Washington: Watching Washington play, this team is certainly talented enough to make the Sweet 16. But they backed into the outright league title when Cal lost on Sunday, went just 4-8 against the top 100 and have wins over Oregon and Arizona. And that’s it. They probably want to make the finals to be safe.

– Oregon: The Ducks are the most interesting team in the Pac-12. Their resume is ‘meh’, but they have been the hottest team in the conference down the stretch — they won six of their last seven, including a 25 point win over Washington — and finished tied for second in the regular season. They are also a much different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. How will the committee judge that?

– Arizona: Yeah, no. Win the auto-bid or make NIT plans.

The Bracket

Where: Los Angeles

When: March 7th-March 10th

Final: March 10th, 6 p.m. CBS

Favorite: Washington

The Huskies may not be the most consistent team in the conference, but they are the regular season champions and the most talented team in the league. And Lorenzo Romar always gets his teams peaking late in the season. It feels like each of the last four or five years, Washington has been underwhelming during the regular season before making a run in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. Without fact-checking I can tell you that’s probably false, but that just goes to show you the reputation that Romar has developed with his program. I think they live up to it again.

And if they lose?: Cal

Jorge Gutierrez is the league’s Player of the Year, Allen Crabbe is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers and Justin Cobbs has turned out to be a pretty good option at the point. The only issue for Cal has been interior play. Harper Kamp is banged up and Richard Solomon is out for the year because of academics.

Other contenders?: Oregon has been a completely different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. He’s averaging 16.9 ppg and the Ducks are 18-6 with him in the lineup. Over the last seven games, they are 6-1 and Joseph is playing as well as he has all season long. He’s not alone, either. EJ Singler and Garrett Sim both had good years and Olu Ashaolu and Carlos Emory have been big inside.

Sleeper: Arizona

The Wildcats are just a young group right now, and its cost them some games. That said, they are a talented group, and while they are probably still a year or two away from really being a factor nationally, they are good enough that stringing together a run in March isn’t out of the question.

Deeper sleepers: I picked Oregon State to win the conference at the midseason break. So I’ll pick Oregon State as the deeper sleeper in the conference tournament. See what I did there?


Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Aggressive driver, terrific defender, convicted posterizer.

Jorge Gutierrez, Cal: The best compliment you can give a player is that he is miserable to play against. Gutierrez is miserable to play against. He’s a leader, a defensive presence and the toughest kid in the country.

Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Washigton: Wroten has been putting up the biggest numbers for the Huskies, but Ross is probably their most talented player.

Devoe Joseph, Oregon: He’s been the difference-maker for the Ducks this year.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.