College Basketball Nation: Arizona State

Numbers To Know: Wednesday recap

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
1:03
PM ET
Player of the Night – Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

Jerrelle Benimon’s career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds led Towson, a team that went 1-31 last season, to a win over Vermont, the preseason favorite in the America East. The transfer from Georgetown will face his old team on Saturday. The Tigers snapped a 27-game road losing streak, picking up their first win since December 2010 at La Salle.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova scored 31 points and added seven assists, as the Gaels beat Drake 88-73. He’s just the third West Coast Conference player with 30 points and seven assists against a Division I team in the past 15 years (Manny Quezada and Dan Dickau). Not all of his numbers were great though. Dellavedova also committed nine turnovers, the most for any Saint Mary’s player in at least 15 years.

Bench Player of the Night – Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

Kevin Pangos was the hero of Gonzaga’s 71-69 win over Washington State, but Kelly Olynyk kept them in it. He scored a career-high 22 points, all coming in the second half. He went 10-for-12 from the field after halftime, and accounted for half of Gonzaga’s second-half points. At 9-0, Gonzaga is off to its best start since joining Division I.

Freshman of the Night – Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson scored 20 points and added five rebounds and six assists, as the Sun Devils beat Hartford 71-63. He’s just the sixth freshman with a 20-5-5 game this season. Carson currently ranks fourth among freshmen in scoring (18.3 ppg) and sixth in assists (5.3). Those averages stack up nicely to one of the greatest seasons for a Pac-12 freshman point guard. Terrell Brandon averaged 17.9 ppg and 6.0 apg for Oregon in 1989-90.

Ugly Stat of the Night - Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee failed to score 40 points for a second straight game, falling to Virginia 46-38. It’s the first time the Vols have been held under 40 in consecutive games since February 1946. It’s also the first time since 1943 that Tennessee has lost back-to-back games while failing to score 40.

Previewing the Pac-10 tournament

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
10:30
PM ET
The Pac-10 tournament this year features nine unranked teams, and for those not named Cal, it’s either win or go home.

A sense of desperation will be felt during every game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles because for many, their postseasons depend entirely on winning the title.

After failing to impress in November and December, and then beating each other during conference play, the Pac-10 is looking like a two-bid conference. With that amount of parity, there is plenty of hope for a surprise team to emerge and punch its NCAA tournament ticket.

“There’s definitely a number of teams that can,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

And that’s exciting, right?

Storylines

The Pac-10 couldn’t really be a one-bid conference, could it? Crazier things have happened, but if Arizona State and Washington lose their quarterfinal games, and regular-season champ Cal takes the title, there you have it. Can a power-six conference, that has struggled to replace players lost to the NBA, get two or three teams in the NCAA tournament?

Arizona, short of winning the tournament, will have its streak of 25 years of making the NCAA tournament snapped. Senior guard Nic Wise has proven his ability to make game-ending shots, and Miller’s talented freshmen could very well come of age during this event. Even if No. 4-seeded Arizona falters during its quarterfinal against No. 5 UCLA, the future is bright.

Cal might have captured its first regular-season title in 50 years, but the Bears can improve their seeding with another title, and quiet doubters who say they merely took advantage of a weak conference. The experienced seniors in the lineup will have something to say about that.

Players to watch

Jerome Randle, G, Cal, Sr. -- Randle, listed at 5-foot-10, was named the conference’s player of the year and is the heart and soul of the Bears. The point guard can hit the deep three, drive the lane and feed the ball to his teammates.

Quincy Pondexter, F, Washington, Sr. -- Second in scoring and third in rebounding in the Pac-10, Pondexter can do a little bit of everything. He’ll be looking to extend the Huskies’ season for as long as he can before heading to the NBA draft.

Derrick Williams, F, Arizona, Fr. -- A native of the Los Angeles area, Williams takes home with him the conference’s freshman of the year award and is the face of the team’s future. A big tournament would generate plenty of preseason hype.

Team to watch

Washington -- The Huskies haven’t exactly met their preseason expectations as defending conference champions, but now it’s the end of the season and they find themselves on a four-game winning streak and with 21 wins. Their last three wins have come on the road after struggling mightily away from Seattle in the early going. An impressive tournament could garner the No. 3-seeded team an at-large bid.

Game I’m looking forward to

A potential Arizona State-Washington semifinal could make all the difference in deciding which of the two teams would merit an at-large berth if they ended up not winning the tournament title. They split in the regular season, with 22-win ASU finishing a game ahead in the standings to take the No. 2 seed.

Saddle Up is our daily preview of the day's best basketball action. We're officially into that oh-so-awesome part of the season when a healthy portion of your daily hoops regimen will be happening during the day, necessitating Saddle Up's move to the morning. So let's do this.

Because trying to Saddle Up for every specific game on today's raucous conference tournament slate seems somewhat foolish (if not downright impossible) let's instead highlight five numbers, concepts or jargon you should watch out for in the next, oh, 16 hours or so. We'll cover every single game tomorrow, when the task is especially Sisyphean. More fun that way, right?

Special note: I'll be chatting the entire day starting at 12 p.m., alongside Brett, Diamond, and a whole batch of the college hoops faces you know and love. Join us, won't you?

OK, onto the things:

1. Big East bubble madness! The best conference in all the land features at least three teams sitting soundly on the bubble entering today's games -- Seton Hall (probably out), South Florida (probably out) and Notre Dame (probably in). South Florida has the best chance of all three to make an impression on the committee with its second-round game against No. 22 Georgetown. The Hoyas are still a ranked, talented team, but one that's very susceptible to upset, and the Bulls have the confidence of knowing they can beat John Thompson III's team anywhere in the country. (Thanks to Dominique Jones' 29 points and eight rebounds, the Bulls beat Georgetown at the Verizon Center on Feb. 3.)

South Florida's bubble standing will have a lot to do with how Seton Hall -- first-round survivors of one of the craziest games you'll ever see -- fares against Notre Dame. The Pirates have played themselves back into the tournament conversation in recent weeks; beating a hot Notre Dame team in the midst of its own late-season tournament run would be a nice little boost. One of the worst in the conference on the defensive end, Seton Hall will have to either find a way to stop Notre Dame's league-leading points-per-possession numbers ... or do its best to keep pace. Either way, both games should be entertaining. (And South Florida-Georgetown tips in a few minutes. Get that ESPN360 loaded!) Oh, and don't forget about Cincinnati, which could use a win over Louisville and then some to get back into bubbleland.

2. Big 12 bubble sadness! The Big East is full of bubble and seeding implications. The Big 12? Not so much. Joe Lunardi currently lists the Big 12's top seven seeds -- Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State -- as locks for the tournament. The remaining five teams -- Colorado, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Nebraska -- aren't at all on the bubble. It would take a momentous run by any of those five to mean something for bubble purposes. Do any of them have what it takes? Eh. Doubtful. But funny things happen in tournaments, and if any of the bottom five have a chance at a run, we'll seed the seeds of that run in today's first four games.

3. It ain't easy being Northeast. Without getting too fatalist, a word of advice for the Northeast conference tournament winner, which will be either Robert Morris or Quinnipiac: Live it up. The Northeast champion would do well to enjoy tonight's celebration, because being in the NCAA tournament and being from the NEC has for 28 years meant one thing: a first-round tournament loss. Yes, the NEC has been in the tourney for almost three decades now, but the entrant has never won a first-round tournament game, according to the uber-helpful folks from ESPN research. If No. 1 seed Quinnipiac finishes the job, the Bobcats will have won the NEC and made the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. And it'll be the first school to start with the letter Q to ever play in the Big Dance. Triple the party! Could a first NCAA tournament win be all that far behind?

4. The Pac-1? Or 2? Consensus on the Pac-10 has remained relatively stable since, oh, November: This is a one-bid league. Arizona State and Washington have both crept closer and closer to the tournament in the last few weeks, but both are still on the outside looking in; Mike Montgomery's Cal team is the lone at-large inclusion. That said, if either team can force its way through the first few rounds of the Pac-10 tournament -- or, obviously, win it -- they could potentially turn the Pac-10 into a two-big league with an option for three. Bad news for bubble teams. Good news for the west coast's most prominent, and most disappointing, conference.

Which is all a long way of saying that the Pac-10 tournament starts today, officially, with one totally forgettable game: Washington State-Oregon. There is a slight bit of drama here, though, regarding Oregon coach Ernie Kent's job. Yesterday, Kent told his players he'll be out as coach after the season is over. Will the Ducks win one (or, preferably for Ernie, three) for the Gipper? Or will they, like so many other teams faced with obvious coaching turmoil, fold in and end the season on a dour note?

5. The big country. Clean air and kitchens full of food aren't the only reason to turn your attentions westward today. No, there's a rather intriguing conference tournament match up on hand -- Weber State vs. Montana -- the winner of which will represent the Big Sky conference in the NCAA tournament. Both are familiar names; the Wildcats and the Grizzlies share the most conference tournament titles in league history, and today's game will mark the fifth time the two have met to decide the title. Look out for Weber State sophomore guard Damian Lillard, the purest scorer you've never heard of.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
1:57
AM ET
Winners from Saturday

Notre Dame: The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field. The Irish are earning their way into the field.

Duke: The Blue Devils likely earned the fourth No. 1 seed with a hammering of North Carolina on Saturday night. Duke also clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Blue Devils passed the eye test of a team that could get to Indy.

Saint Louis: The Billikens won at Dayton, completing a season sweep of the Flyers and finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Rick Majerus has done an outstanding job with a club that is void of upperclassmen. The Billikens could be a sleeper to win the A-10 in Atlantic City next week.

Baylor: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Big 12 tournament, it could be Baylor. The Bears ran away from Texas and looked like a team ready to get busy in the postseason.

Kansas: The Jayhawks may have locked up the No. 1 overall seed after winning at Missouri on Saturday. Kansas got inspired play from its key contributors and once again heads into the conference tournament on a high.

Louisville: The Cardinals had to win two of there games this week and did. Louisville beat Connecticut, then lost at Marquette before beating Syracuse on Saturday. That gave the Cardinals a sweep of Syracuse and a likely bid to the Dance in the final game at Freedom Hall.

Tennessee: The Vols did something Lane Kiffin couldn’t do, taking a 17-0 lead on the road in the SEC. Tennessee lit up Mississippi State and had the look of a team that could be a major factor in an SEC tournament that they'll play in their home state just a few hours away in Nashville.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Dorenzo Hudson, survived a nasty moving screen by Gani Lawal on Malcolm Delaney and gutted out a win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies dismissed any doubt about their candidacy with a win.

Washington: The Huskies kept alive their chances of an at-large berth by winning at Oregon State. That win doesn’t get them in the dance, but a loss would have been crushing.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and they had to beat UCLA to stay in the field. They did, sweeping the L.A. schools this week. But here’s the deal: ASU and Washington are heading for a showdown in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. Loser is out, winner has a pulse.

Memphis: The Tigers had a great week, winning at UAB and crushing Tulsa at home. The Tigers get the sweep of the Blazers. If you’re looking for a second C-USA team to go along with league champ UTEP, it could be the Tigers. They may get a third shot at UAB in the semifinals.

Maryland: The Terps won at Virginia. Yes, UVA was playing without Sylven Landesberg, who has been suspended for the season due to academics, but the Terps still won a road game. That means Maryland gets a share of the ACC title. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for this squad.

Pitt: The Panthers lost to Indiana early in the year without Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. Pitt could have lost to Providence at home, but when it mattered most the Panthers have come up huge. They beat Rutgers as expected Saturday but that meant Pitt got the No. 2 seed after beating West Virginia and Villanova at home in February. Jamie Dixon has done a phenomenal job with the Panthers. There is no reason Pitt should be No. 2 in the Big East with what it lost.

Losers from Saturday

Rhode Island: Had a shot to convince the selection committee that it was worthy, but lost at UMass a week after losing at St. Bonaventure. The Rams didn’t beat the top three teams in the A-10 (Xavier, Temple or Richmond). URI must win the conference tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started a must-win game down 17-0. Mississippi State has blown two chances to win a key home game – to Kentucky and now Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn’t do anything Saturday to convince the selection committee.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets may still get into the field. But they gave the selection committee a reason to pause after losing at home to Virginia Tech, sans Dorenzo Hudson, who was hurt. The Yellow Jackets finished seventh in the ACC and had only one conference road win.

Connecticut: The Huskies had an awful week, losing at Notre Dame and then losing at South Florida on Saturday. The Huskies now probably have to get to the Big East semifinals to crawl back into the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were teetering on the bubble before the Billikens bulldozed the Flyers late and stole a win. Dayton now probably has to win the A-10 tournament to get a bid.

Villanova: The ‘Cats may have played themselves out of a No. 2 seed by losing at home to West Virginia. Villanova also fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament. ‘Nova can still make a magnificent run, but it made the journey more difficult.

Kansas State: The Wildcats lost their third home game in the Big 12 by falling to lower-level Iowa State (also lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State). The Wildcats blew a No. 2 seed with the home loss Saturday.

LaSalle: The Explorers were supposed to be a sleeper in the A-10. They won’t even make the tournament in Atlantic City. The Explorers will join winless Fordham in sitting out the conference tourney.

Oklahoma: The disaster season came to a conclusion with a sad effort against Texas A&M. The atmosphere was awful and the Sooners sunk.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were handed the second-worst loss under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Duke and limp into the ACC tournament. It was just awful.

UAB: The Blazers had a huge week with games against UTEP and Memphis. They lost them both and pushed themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got hammered by Memphis and limp into hosting the conference tournament next week. Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.

A few nuggets:
  • Georgetown coach John Thompson III said late Saturday night that Austin Freeman felt fine after the game, his first since being diagnosed with diabetes. Freeman scored 24 points in the win over Cincinnati. Freeman missed the West Virginia game last Monday. Thompson told me that the Hoyas will continue to monitor Freeman’s blood-sugar level and don’t anticipate any problems going forward this season.
  • Notre Dame got Luke Harangody back for the win at Marquette. Harangody played 11 minutes off the bench. Irish coach Mike Brey told me late Saturday night that Harangody will continue to come off the bench this season. He said ‘Gody told him to use him however he wants to ensure the team wins. Brey said the Irish have become mentally tougher in the past few weeks. The Irish were 4-2 without Harangody, beating Pitt and Connecticut at home and winning at Georgetown.
  • KVAL-TV reported that Oregon coach Ernie Kent has been fired and that he was told on Feb. 22 by Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti. No one will be surprised if this does occur, but Kent told me in a text late Saturday night that this is the same story he has heard the past four years. Meanwhile, Bellottti sent this statement out late Saturday night after Oregon’s win over Washington State: "Ernie and I have talked, and we will continue to talk through the Pac-10 Tournament."
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 12 Purdue 60, No. 15 Wisconsin 57: Michigan State is still in charge of the Big Ten, but Purdue and Wisconsin aren't far behind. That's the conclusion from Thursday night's thrilling 58-possession game (not an oxymoron!) in West Lafayette, where Purdue and Wisconsin battled for 40 minutes, neither team able to totally solve the other, until Trevon Hughes' last-second floater rimmed out and the Boilermakers finished the game with a three-point margin. Purdue made just two threes all game but made up for it by shooting 73.3 percent on its twos, while Wisconsin made up for a lackluster two-point percentage by making 47.4 percent of its threes. This made for an even matchup. The difference, however slight, could possibly be found in offensive rebounding; Purdue rebounded 37.9 percent of its misses while Wisconsin only grabbed 21.2. In any case, the margin is almost too slim to call, and this is your second tier in the Big Ten. Michigan State still reigns, but both Purdue and Wisconsin are right there, and both deserve your respect. That was Thursday night's lesson.

No. 22 Georgia Tech 79, Wake Forest 58: Anatomy of a thorough beatdown: Make a lot of shots (59.3 percent eFG). Stop the other team from doing the same (35.2 percent eFG). All else equal, um, yeah: You're going to win that game. Such was the case in Atlanta last night, as Georgia Tech laid the aforementioned thorough beatdown on Wake Forest, 79-58. Paul Hewitt said it best: "I'm not sure we can play much better than that." I'm not sure any team can. At least not any team in the ACC. Now it's up to Georgia Tech to replicate that performance. If they can, even sporadically, the Yellow Jackets ought to treat their fans to an awfully interesting couple of months.

Everywhere else: Ole Miss shot well on the way to a 10-point road win over Auburn ... Pitt rebounded from a slow start -- the Panthers trailed by four at the half -- to take a 63-53 win over St. John's in Pittsburgh; this was not a game Pittsburgh was allowed to lose ... Seton Hall and South Florida played into overtime, and that's when Dominique Jones took over, giving South Florida the two-point win ... Santa Clara pushed Gonzaga to the limit, causing even Ken Pomeroy to worry, but the Bulldogs rallied from a 14-point deficit to take the win ... Virginia Tech got an impressive win at Virginia in overtime; Tony Bennett has had the Cavaliers playing solid basketball, so a loss at home is something of a surprise ... Siena fought off another test from upstart St. Peter's ... and Cal took another step toward Pac-10 supremacy with a win over Arizona State in Tempe.

Saddle Up: The Big Ten does battle

January, 28, 2010
1/28/10
3:48
PM ET
Saddle Up is our daily look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch tonight. Here's Thursday night's rundown:

No. 16 Wisconsin at No. 12 Purdue, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Who wants to watch some very slow, very methodical, very high-quality Big Ten basketball? I do. I occasionally complain about the Big Ten's slow pace -- and who better to pinpoint for that sloth than Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams, who thrive on grinding games to a halt -- but the bottom line is that pace doesn't equal quality. Sure, it's fun to watch the North Carolinas and Villanovas and Missouris of the world, teams that fly up and down the court with minimal abandon, but it can be equally fun to watch two really good, really strong teams battle for every inch in a 60-possession game. That's what you can expect when Wisconsin goes to Purdue tonight: a battle. Not a blitzkrieg, but a bunker war. It might take a little more to appreciate, but when it's good, it's awfully good.

There are some stakes here, too: Michigan State is in the driver's seat in the Big Ten, of course, but both Wisconsin and Purdue have a shot. UW is two games behind the Spartans in the Big Ten, and a win at Purdue would do away with one very pesky hurdle in competing for that top spot. Meanwhile, the Boilers seemed to have recovered from their three-game slide, which began with a loss in Madison on Jan. 9. If Purdue wants to make a run and get back into national consideration -- let's not forget how many people had the Boilermakers getting to the Final Four -- it will need to prove that games like a Jan. 12 home loss to Ohio State are exceptions, not rules.

Settle in: Every possession matters, and in a game this likely to be slow, it'll feel like it.

Wake Forest at No. 22 Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. ET, RSN: Well, if it isn't the two most confusing teams in the ACC. What's up, guys? Both have 14-win records and respectable starts in conference, and both have future pro talent likely to go high in the first round of next year's NBA draft. Both are also missing that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you think either are complete teams capable of making a deep tournament run. But maybe they are. Maybe that's just me. Tonight is an opportunity for one to separate itself from the other, both in the ACC and in people's minds, and it's also a chance to see Al-Farouq Aminu match up with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. I'm not complaining.

Siena at St. Peter's, 7 p.m. ET: Guess who is 10-0 in conference and 17-4 overall, and who looks for all the world like another NCAA tournament bid (and potential darling-status run) is back in the works? That would be Siena. (No, sorry, it wasn't St. Peter's. Good guess though!) The Saints are rolling through conference play right now, and next up is tonight's matchup at St. Peter's, a team riding a five-game winning streak and one that played Siena close until a second-half run finished the game in the Saints favor (64-53) on New Year's Eve. But the opponent doesn't matter so much as the opportunity to check in on Siena. Are the Saints this year's bracket buster? Can they turn frequent NCAA love into "next Gonzaga" status? Is the leap within reach? I don't know, but now's as good a time as any to find out. (Also, they have a dude named Just-in'love Smith. This remains the greatest name in the history of not only college basketball but names.)

Everywhere else: Gonzaga will try to keep its conference win streak intact as the Zags visit Santa Clara on ESPN (11 ET) ... Ole Miss is still quietly ranked, and still quietly impressive, and the Rebels have a chance to improve their conference record with a road win over Arkansas ... A struggling St. John's team will head to Pittsburgh (ESPNU, 7 ET), which has maybe hit a bit of a cold-front after their early Big East-leading heatwave ... and, along with a host of other Pac-10 games tonight, Cal will visit Arizona State to see which team can lay early claim to the title of West's best. A win would likely mean more for Cal; the Bears played poorly in their nonconference but their schedule was unforgiving and a solid road win over an OK team like Arizona State would be a nice little boost to the Bears' resume.

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