Rosco Allen

AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Leave a comment

The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.29.16 PM

 

When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

Shot selection, sluggish play costs No. 11 Oregon at Stanford

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Leave a comment

Entering this week it appeared as if the question of “who’s the best team in the Pac-12” had a clear answer. No. 11 Oregon sat atop the standings in first place, and with one of the conference’s favorites for Player of the Year in Dillon Brooks leading the way Dana Altman’s Ducks looked to be approaching “elite” status. After the Ducks’ 0-2 weekend in the Bay Area, it’s time to slow down with the “elite” chatter.

Two nights after getting blown out at California the Ducks lost again, this time failing to complete their comeback attempt at Stanford as the Cardinal won 76-72.

Rosco Allen scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards for the Cardinal, shooting 9-for-12 from the field and not struggling all that much to get the looks he preferred. Allen hit shots from all three levels, at the rim, in the mid-range game and from deep, and so did his teammates. As a team Stanford shot 55.3 percent from the field and 9-for-13 from three, with Christian Sanders accounting for ten of the team’s 18 assists and Grant Verhoeven (13 points) and Dorian Pickens (16) chipping in as well.

Oregon, on the other hand, once again got away from the things that have made them so successful offensively. Working to get the best possible shot has worked quite well for the Ducks, given their many offensive options who can score from just about anywhere on the floor. Against Stanford 27 of Oregon’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, far too high a percentage for a team with scoring options such as Brooks, Elgin Cook, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher.

Oregon settled until late in the second half, resulting in a deficit that proved too large to fully erase.

Winning on the road is tough, especially in a conference in which three teams (Arizona, Oregon and Utah) have managed to pick up a road sweep this season. But that can’t result in a team losing sight of what has made it so successful for much of the season. That appeared to be the case for Oregon in their two games in the Bay Area.

The good news for Oregon is that they have the talent needed to ensure that this is but a minor blip on the radar, a weekend that can be used to refocus on what made them the team many pegged as the best in the Pac-12 a week ago. The negative: as a result of this weekend Oregon’s margin for error is now gone, with two-time defending champion Arizona leading the charge.

Turnovers, foul shooting cost No. 21 Utah at Stanford

Associated Press
Leave a comment

With the Pac-12 lacking the separation it’s had in years past many games are going to go down to the wire, meaning that the “little things” will have a major impact in conference play. That was the case in No. 21 Utah’s trip to Palo Alto to play Stanford, as the Runnin’ Utes’ struggles with turnovers and foul shooting were key factors in their 70-68 overtime loss on The Farm.

Larry Kyrstkowiak’s team shot 6-for-18 from the foul line after halftime and they also committed 19 turnovers against a Stanford defense that isn’t of the high-pressure variety. Add in 17 bench points from Stanford’s Marcus Sheffield to supplement three starters in double figures led by Rosco Allen (17 points), and Utah was unable to close out a game that appeared well within their grasp early in the second half.

Guards Lorenzo Bonam and Brandon Taylor combined to commit just three turnovers, so they can’t be blamed for the turnover issues against Stanford. Most of those problems occurred in the front court, with Kyle Kuzma responsible for four turnovers and Jakob Poeltl three. Poeltl fouled out late in regulation, and the absence of their best interior scoring option hamstrung the Utah offense in overtime.

Yet even with the 19 turnovers Utah still had a chance to close out a game they led by 12 just over four minutes into the second half. But they left points on the board at the foul line, shooting even worse than Stanford (14-for-25) managed to from the charity stripe. In a game littered with mistakes down the stretch and into overtime Stanford simply made fewer mistakes, resulting in a two-point victory.

There isn’t much separation in the Pac-12 this year, and any opportunity to get a win on the road is something teams have to take advantage of. Utah had its chances, but in the end turnovers, foul trouble and the inability to hit free throws did them in.