Tag: California

2018-2019 Pac-12 Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Bennie Boatwright, USC

Noah Dickerson, Washington

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Tres Tinkle, Oregon St

Kris Wilkes, UCLA

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Kevin Porter Jr., USC

Projected Order of Finish:

1. UCLA

Head coach Steve Alford has the unenviable task of trying to navigate the harsh and unrealistic UCLA fan base. His seat is as hot as it gets and he’ll probably need to make it to the second weekend to save his job. The backcourt trio of sophomores Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and junior Prince Ali will be one of the best in the country. Freshman center Moses Brown will be tasked with being the defensive anchor. There’s plenty of talent here, but the Bruins will have to keep the noise away.

2. Washington

No one expected the Huskies to be as good as they were last season, but they managed to find themselves to the bubble. This season should see the Huskies become one of the best teams in the Pac-12. Senior forward Noah Dickerson is a true low-post scorer that will be tough for anyone to guard. Throw in the 2-3 zone and the combination of a true star plus style of play can lead Washington to a Pac-12 title.

3. Oregon

The Ducks missed the tournament last season after making a Final Four run the year before. The talent here this season is impressive. Junior guard Payton Pritchard and senior forward Paul White return along with a top 5 recruiting class featuring Bol Bol and Louis King. Texas A&M-CC Ehab Amin will also be able to produce right away as well for this Pac-12 title contender.

4. USC

Injuries never allowed the Trojans to meet their full potential last season, but there is enough talent here to get back to the tournament. The frontcourt is set with senior Bennie Boatwright and junior Nick Rakocevic. Junior guard Jonah Matthews will also be a key contributor. However, the Kevin Porter Jr. is the wild card here. The possible one-and-done prospect could be enough to make USC a truly dangerous team.

5. Arizona St

The Sun Devils started out the season as hot as any team in the country as they climbed all the way to a top-5 ranking. People will remember them for faltering down the stretch just as much. Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice are gone from that team. Sun Devil fans should not fret though as sophomores Romello White and Remy Martin return along with newcomers, transfer Rob Edwards and freshmen Lugentz Dort and Taeshon Cherry.

6. Oregon St

Head coach Wayne Tinkle did the impossible by getting this program to the NCAA tournament in 2016. The past two years have been less than stellar. There is talent with The Thompson brothers in the backcourt and the coaches son, Tres Tinkle, in the frontcourt. The Beavers will be a middle of the pack Pac-12 team and, with the right victories, can get into the bubble conversation.

7. Colorado

Head coach Tad Boyle is one of the most underrated coaches in the country so there is no concern whether this team will be competitive. The backcourt of sophomore McKinley Wright IV and senior Namon Wright will be among the best in the Pac-12. Sophomore Tyler Bey and junior Lucas Siewart will be important to just how good this team can be.

8. Arizona

Outside of Louisville, no team was tied up in the middle of the FBI investigation as much as Arizona. That cloud will remain over the program for the foreseeable future. That plus having to replace DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic will prove to be tough for head coach Sean Miller. Transfers Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther will have to hit the ground running as will freshmen Brandon Williams and Devonaire Doutrive.

9. Utah

The Utes are in a transitional period as a program as head coach Larry Krystkowiak attempts to get his team back to the tournament. Senior guard Sedrick Barefield returns to try to help move the program forward. Freshmen Both Gak and Timmy Allen are the future of the program, but they’ll have to be prepared right away.

10. Stanford

Injuries took a huge toll on the Cardinal last season and then Reid Travis transferred to Kentucky. Now head coach Jerod Haase is back to square one. Sophomores K.Z. Okpala and Daejon Davis return with other young pieces like sophomores Kodye Pugh, Oscar da Silva and freshman Jaiden Delaire. Stanford is at least a year away.

11. Washington St

This is the single toughest job in a power 5 conference. Head coach Ernie Kent knows this now as his time is running out in Pullman. Making matters worse is Malachi Flynn’s transfer to San Diego St. If Kent is to get out of this hole, he’ll need his numerous about of juco transfers to mesh and be productive.

12. California

Head coach Wyking Jones is having difficulty keeping his best players from transferring. The roster this year is young and needs a few years for seasoning. It’s going to be tough this season for Jones as his team struggles with an improving Pac-12.

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South Region Team Capsules

1. Duke Blue Devils
Location: Durham, N.C.
Record: 29-5
Automatic Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference Champions
Key Players: Jon Scheyer (18.6 ppg, 5 apg), Kyle Singler (17.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Nolan Smith (17.3 ppg)
Strength: As the big three go, so goes Duke. Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler are outstanding players and all-ACC selections. They all can shoot the three and create their own shots. When they’re play well in concert together, there aren’t many teams in the country that can beat Duke. Those three are definitely the key to another Final Four run for coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Weakness: Duke still doesn’t have a low-post scoring threat. They have bodies to fill-in, but none are consistent. This has been an issue for Duke since Sheldon Williams left and it hasn’t been addressed. Maryland, Georgia Tech and Georgetown all hurt the Blue Devils because they had legitimate big men. If and when they run into a team with talented post players, they are going to struggle.

2. Villanova Wildcats
Location: Villanova, Pa.
Record: 24-7
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Scottie Reynolds (18.5 ppg), Corey Fisher (13.7 ppg), Antonio Pena (10.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Corey Stokes (9.5 ppg), Taylor King (5.6 rpg)
Strength: Villanova is very quick on defense and they’re tough to guard off of dribble penetration, but be clear: This is Scottie Reynolds’ team. If he doesn’t play well, the Wildcats can’t win. It just so happens that he plays well almost every game. Reynolds may be considered the greatest player in Villanova history when it’s all said and done. He can get hot and take a game over. He takes big shots and is fearless. He has to be himself for Villanova to have a chance to make a run.
Weakness: Villanova is allowing teams to score too easily. Teams that are able to break Villanova’s pressure defense are having a lot success putting the ball in the basket. The Wildcats are allowing over 72 points per game. They send their opponents to the free-throw line a lot and, due to their lack of size, allow a lot of points in the paint. Villanova allowing teams to score that much in the tournament is going to send it home early.

3. Baylor Bears
Location: Waco, Texas
Record: 25-7
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: LaceDarius Dunn (19.4 ppg) , Tweety Carter (15.7 ppg, 5.3 apg), Ekpe Udoh (13.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Quincy Acy (9.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Strength: The Bears are quite possibly the most athletic team in the nation. In the open floor, they have multiple guys who can finish. They seem to live on Sports Center’s top plays with highlight reel dunks. It also helps them on defense where they hold their opponents to 38.4 percent shooting and block over seven shots per game. They’ve been able to overwhelm many of their opponents with that athleticism and it’ll be a huge key to how they perform in the tournament.
Weakness: This team turns the ball over too much. Baylor is dead last in the Big XII in turnover margin committing almost two more turnovers a game than its opponents. the biggest issue is LaceDarius Dunn, the Bears’ best player, leads the team in turnovers. He’s the player with the ball in his hand more than anyone else and if he’s coughing it up, that’s going to make the Bears a little easier to defend. In order for the Bears to make a run, they have to value the basketball.

4. Purdue Boilermakers
Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Record: 27-5
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: E’Twaun Moore (16.6 ppg), JaJuan Johnson (15.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Strength: One thing the Boilermakers have done all season is defend. They’re at the top of the Big Ten in most defensive categories. They’re opponents only score 60.6 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting. Their defense has carried them all year, especially after the lost or Robbie Hummel. As long as they continue to defend the way they are, they’ll be able o contend in the tournament.
Weakness: This team is still struggling to find its identity without Hummel. The Boilermakers are clearly not the same team without Hummel. They miss his scoring, his rebounding and most importantly, his leadership. They have had some really terrible offensive performances since his injury. They really need to take the time before the start of their tournament game get comfortable with each other.

Texas A&M senior guard Donald Sloan

5. Texas A&M Aggies
Location: College Station, Texas
Record: 23-9
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Donald Sloan (18.2 ppg), Bryan Davis (9.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg), B.J. Holmes (9.3 ppg), David Loubeau (9 ppg)
Strength: Not many teams in the tournament will have the kind of quality experience the Aggies have. Seniors Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis have already played seven NCAA tournament games each in their previous three trips to the Big Dance. Junior B.J. Holmes has played in two NCAA tournaments himself. Throw-in the playing in the rugged Big XII and there’s nothing that’s going to rattle these guys.
Weakness: Texas A&M is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the Big XII. At 66 percent, the Aggies have struggled all year from the line. The Aggies have five guys seeing significant minutes that shoot 57 percent or worst. Fortunately Sloan shoots 77 percent as he is their best option offensively, but in late game situations, they will need to knock down shots from the free-throw line if they expect to make a run.

6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Location: South Bend, Ind.
Record: 23-11
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Luke Harangody (22.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Tim Abromaitis (16.3 ppg), Ben Hansbrough (11.8 ppg), Tory Jackson (9.8 ppg, 5.3 apg), Tyrone Nash (8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Strength: Notre Dame comes in boasting one of the most experienced rosters you’ll see in the tournament this year. Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson are seniors. Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough, and Tyrone Nash are juniors. This team will be prepared for anything it sees. It was mature enough to handle a mid-season injury to Harangody and a change of philosophy by head coach Mike Brey. It’ll be ready for anything.
Weakness: Depth is going to be an issue for the Fighting Irish. They really can only go seven-deep in terms of quality guys. Brey’s decision to switch to a slower pace helps, but it can only go so far. There’s going to come a time in the tournament where Notre Dame is going to face an opponent that’ll throw a lot of bodies at it. How the Irish handle that will be paramount to how far it goes.

7. Richmond Spiders
Location: Richmond, Va.
Record: 26-8
At-Large Bid: Atlantic 10 Conference
Key Players: Kevin Anderson (17.8 ppg), David Gonzalvez (14.5 ppg), Justin Harper (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Ryan Butler (8.2 ppg)
Strength: Richmond runs one of the most complex offenses of any team in the NCAA Tournament. It’s an offense based on Princeton principles, but gives the players freedom for isolations. That’s what’s allowed Kevin Anderson to become the A-10 player of the year this season. He really flourishes with his ability to get to the hoop and knock down jumpers. With the talent he has around him, it makes Richmond really difficult to guard.
Weakness: Richmond is really a week rebounding team. The Spiders are second from the bottom in the A-10 in rebounding margin; getting out-rebounded by 4.9 boards per game. Their offense has masked that huge deficiency on the boards. However, in this tournament coaches know how to exploit weaknesses and some coach is going to figure how to make them pay on the boards.

8. California Golden Bears
Location: Berkeley, Calif
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Pac-10 Conference
Key Players: Jerome Randle (18.7 ppg), Patrick Christopher (16 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Theo Robertson (14.1 ppg), Jamal Boykin (12 ppg, 6.7 ppg)
Strength: The Golden Bears are a nightmare to defend. With four guys who can really score, they present a dynamic challenge most teams around the country can’t. This is a team that likes to shoot threes, but also has a post presence in Jamal Boykin to provide balance. If Cal is on, they can hang with just about anyone. Cal is an explosive team and can do some damage if not taken seriously.
Weakness: When Cal isn’t making three-point shots, they’re very mortal. It’s what makes them go and provides opportunities for their big men to get points in the paint. They take a good amount and make a good amount, but if they’re missing, they’ll shoot themselves right out of a game. It’s what happened to them in last year’s tournament and it’s very possible that it can happen again.

9. Louisville Cardinals
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Record: 20-12
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Samardo Samuels (15.3 ppg, 7 rpg), Edgar Sosa (13.3 ppg), Jerry Smith (8.4 ppg), Jared Swopshire (6 rpg)
Strength: If there was one word to describe the Cardinals it would be pesky. This is a Rick Pitino-coached team so it’s going to press full court for 40 minutes. When they’re able to do that effectively, they have the game at their tempo and they are difficult to beat. It allows them to get into their transition offense; creating opportunities for them to spot up for three-pointers on the break. If they’re able to impose their will, they can definitely make some noise.
Weakness: Once again, the Cardinals lack a consistent playmaker. Edgar Sosa has shown the ability to take people off the dribble, but they are definitely missing someone who can get the job done in a half-court situation. It was clearly an issue in their loss to Michigan St in the Elite Eight last season and it doesn’t appear the problem has been rectified. It probably isn’t something that’s going to change in the tournament so Louisville fans better hope they can play games at a faster pace.

Underrated Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan

10. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Location: Moraga, Calif.
Record: 26-5
Automatic Bid: West Coast Conference Champions
Key Players: Omar Samhan (20.9 ppg, 11 rpg), Mickey McConnell (13.7 ppg, 5.3 apg), Matthew Dellavedova (12.5 ppg), Ben Allen (10.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
Strength: The Gaels has the kind balance that scares opponents. Not only do they have guards that can really shoot the three, but they also have a legitimate post presence in Omar Samhan. Samhan is joined in the frontcourt by Ben Allen who is a 6’11” big man who can shoot it from three. This is a team that is dangerous from anywhere on the floor offensively and that makes them a tough out this March.
Weakness: This team has virtually no depth. The disparity in the minutes played by the starters and the bench for Saint Mary’s is staggering and so is the production. The Gaels really employ only a seven-man rotation and the two guys off of the bench are averaging less than nine points between the two of them. Teams are going to run a lot of defenders at the Gaels to try to stay fresh. If they don’t handle that well, they’ll have trouble advancing.

11. Old Dominion Monarchs
Location: Norfolk, Va.
Record: 26-8
Automatic Bid: Colonial Athletic Association Champions
Key Players: Gerald Lee (14.6 ppg), Frank Hassell (8.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Ben Finney (8.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Kent Bazemore (8.4 ppg)
Strength: There aren’t many teams in the country that defend the way the Monarchs do. ODU is only allowing 57.1 points per game holding their opponents to 40 percent shooting. They’re not allowing teams to grab their misses either as they are No. 1 in the CAA in rebounding margin grabbing 8.8 more boards per game. In addition to that, they’re also getting 7.8 steals per game. Anytime you can defend like this, you have a chance to be successful.
Weakness: The Monarchs’ free-throw shooting is abysmal.. At 64.5 percent, they’re in 11th place in the 12 team CAA in percentage. Three of their top four scorers shoot 67 percent or less with only Gerald Lee being competent from the line. In the NCAA tournament, when every moment is magnified, their deficiency from the line could be what ends their season.

12. Utah State Aggies
Location: Logan, Utah
Record: 27-7
At-Large Bid: Western Athletic Conference
Key Players: Tai Wesley (13.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Jared Quayle (12.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Nate Bendall (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Pooh Williams (8.8 ppg), Tyler Newbold (8 ppg)
Strength: You won’t find many teams as efficient offensively as the Aggies. They’re always composed and it shows in their numbers. As a team, they’re shooting a remarkable 49.1 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from behind the arc. They’re only turning the ball over at a clip of 10.3 per game so they don’t give opponents extra opportunities. They’re even in the top half of the WAC in offensive rebound percentage. This team will just not beat itself.
Weakness: This team has some depth issues. The Aggies get a lot of production out of its seven-man rotation, but that’s against WAC competition. The WAC is a solid mid-major conference but they’ll be playing teams in the tournament better than any team they faced in conference all year. The Aggies are going to need everyone to step up for them if they expect to do some damage this year.

13. Siena Saints
Location: Loudonville, N.Y.
Record: 27-6
Automatic Bid: Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Alex Franklin (16.3 ppg, 8 rpg), Edwin Ubiles(15.2 ppg), Ryan Rossiter (13.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg), Clarence Jackson (13.6 ppg), Ronald Moore (7.8 apg)
Strength: This team has so much firepower it’s scary. For a mid-major to have four guys averaging in double figures is quite the achievement, but this is no ordinary mid-major. The Saints have won games in the past two NCAA tournaments and has the talent to do it again. They have great guards, great post players and guys who can play from the wing. There’s no doubt that this edition of the Saints is not only talented enough to win one game, but they’re capable of making it to the second weekend.
Weakness: Unlike most mid-majors, this isn’t a team that is a great shooting team. They shoot less than 46 percent from the floor, shoot 32.3 percent from three and only shoot 67 percent from the free-throw line. This is a team that likes to go up-and-down but in half-court situations in the NCAA tournament, their inability to shoot effectively could be the reason they make an earlier exit than they’d like.

14. Sam Houston State Bearkats
Location: Huntsville, Texas
Record: 25-7
Automatic Bid: Southland Conference Champions
Key Players: Gilberto Clavell (16.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Corey Allmond (15.9 ppg), Ashton Mitchell (12.7 ppg, 5.1 apg), Preston Brown (9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Josten Crow (8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Strength: Sam Houston St made the most three-pointers in the Southland Conference this season and that’s not just because they’re taking the most shots. It’s because they’re one of the best three-point shooting teams in the tournament.. The Bearkats are second in their conference in three-point field goal percentage and it’s a huge part of their success. They have three guys who shoot over 40 percent from three and that’s not including all-conference guard, Corey Allmond, who shots 37.6 percent.
Weakness: The Bearkats strength can also be there weakness. Almost every player on the roster has a green light to shoot from behind the arc. That means the Bearkats are high-risk, high-reward. If they’re knocking down shots, they’re going to pull off an upset. If they’re not knocking down shots, they may lose by 30. that kind of free-willing style could be the death of them.

Robert Morris guard Karon Abraham

15. Robert Morris Colonials
Location: Moon Township, Pa.
Record: 23-11
Automatic Bid: Northeast Conference Champions
Key Players: Karon Abraham (13.4 ppg), Rob Robinson (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Mezie Nwigwe (8.2 ppg), Velton Jones (8.2 ppg)
Strength: The Colonials are a really good defensive team. They finished tied for first in the NEC in field-goal percentage defense by holding teams to 40.9 percent shooting on the year. They also force 15.7 turnovers per game 7.58 steals, both of which are good enough for second in the NEC. Their defense is the reason they had such a successful season in the NEC and have made a return trip the NCAA tournament.
Weakness: There’s a reason the Colonials have to be so good defensively: They’re so bad offensively. They only shoot 43.7 percent from the field, 66.1 percent from the free throw line and commit close to 15 turnovers per game. Given the seed they’ve been given, if they put those kinds of numbers up in this tournament, their stay will be as short as it was last season.

16a. Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions
Location: Pine Bluff, Ark.
Record: 17-15
Automatic Bid: Southwestern Athletic Conference
Key Players: Terrance Calvin (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Savalance Townsend (10.2 ppg), Lebaron Weathers (9.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Tavaris Washington (9.6 ppg), Tyree Glass (8.1 ppg)
Strength: This Golden Lions team really defends. They’re second in the SWAC in field goal percentage defense holding their opponents to 40.7 percent shooting from the floor and forcing over 14 turnovers per game. That defense helped the Golden Lions to a second place regular season finish in the SWAC. They’ll have to play that kind of defense to be competitive in this tournament.
Weakness: The Golden Lions offensive numbers are downright disgusting. They’re only scoring 64.4 points per game on 66.3 percent free-throw shooting, 41.1 percent field-goal shooting and 30.4 percent three-point field-goal percentage. It also commits over 17 turnovers per game as well. These are not the numbers of competitive teams and there isn’t much hope for the Golden Lions in this tournament.

16b. Winthrop Eagles
Location: Winthrop, S.C.
Record: 19-13
Automatic Bid: Big South Conference Champions
Key Players: Reggie Middleton (10.3 ppg), Matt Morgan (9.6 ppg), Mantoris Robinson (8.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Andy Buechert (6.5 rpg)
Strength: Winthrop was one of the best defensive teams in the Big South this season. The Eagles their opponents’ shooting percentage to less that 40 percent, while their opponents only shot 29.4 percent from behind the arc. They also force over 15 turnovers per game as well. Coach Randy Peele’s team will be able to compete if they can continue to guard this way in the NCAA tournament.
Weakness: Winthrop may be the worst offensive team in the Big South. On the year, the Eagles actually has worse overall and three-point shooting percentages than their opponents. That’s pretty amazing given it finished in third place. Any team that only scores 62.4 points per game has a razor thin margin of error. At this level, it’s a lot to ask of the Eagles to make much noise with those offensive numbers.