Pac-12 Basketball: Key Foreign Tour Take-Home Messages
Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller recently tweeted, “There has never been a better time to compete in the PAC 12 Conference. Our stage is now the nation. It's a different set of bright lights!”
While the statement was made in regard to the Pac-12’s television schedule, Miller could have just as rightfully used the famed Shakespeare line, “All the world’s a stage.” For Pac-12 men’s basketball, in particular during this past month, the world has been the stage for dozens of hoops players.
Whether Pac-12 fans can actually view that stage, however, depends on their cable providers, as several still have yet to make agreements with the Pac-12 network.
In the span of one month, Pac-12 men’s basketball has been played (is still being played, in the case of Washington) on every continent in the world with the exception of Antarctica. It’s difficult to know what to really take home from the foreign-tour exhibition games that several of the Pac-12 teams played this past month, although some lingering questions may have been answered.
Even though the start of the 2012-13 college basketball season is still a little while away, these summer tours give teams the chance to bond and work a few things out, while giving fans a taste of what is to come. From the looks of things, Pac-12 men's basketball will have a lot to offer this coming season and should be a big improvement over the 2011-12 season.
Here’s a look at some of the key take-home messages from each of the 2012 Pac-12 men’s basketball foreign tours, including: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State.
Key take-home messages: The Wildcats' hopes of a return to the top of the conference and the 2013 NCAA tournament look to be holding up. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is making a quick adjustment to the Wildcats program.
Arizona walked away from a short tour in the Bahamas with a combined score total over two opponents of 235-123.
The Daily Wildcat quoted Arizona head coach Sean Miller on what the Wildcats were able to take away from the trip:
That trip was more valuable to (Arizona senior forward Kevin) Parrom more than anyone. He answered a lot of doubts. He was shot, and he’s almost at the one-year mark, and he’s almost 100 percent.
Miller also commented on the added size to the Wildcats’ squad this season, and spoke about transfer guard Lyons. With regard to Lyons, Miller stated:
Maybe best thing he does is how quick he is on defense. He’s old in terms of college basketball, and he has a lot of know-how. It’s so unique to add a guy with his mindset and experience on the defensive end.
If there were any doubts about Lyons fitting in with the Wildcats, his performance in the Bahamas seemed to put them to rest. In 19 minutes of play, Lyons managed to score 19 points, making him the point leader in Arizona’s final game of the tour, a 99-57 win.
Key take-home messages: Keep an eye on Colorado freshman Josh Scott.
Colorado finished near the middle of the Pac-12 Conference last season—then went on to win the Pac-12 tournament and the conference's automatic NCAA bid. Following the season the Buffs lost a few key players, but brought in what looks to be a solid recruiting class.
The Buffs went 2-3 on their five-game tour of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. On the trip, CU head coach Tad Boyle had this to say:
Individually, there were some great performances as well. The best thing from this trip is every player really improved; every player got a chance to play and get in the flow of real-live game situations against good competition. This trip is invaluable to our program this year (via cubuffs.com).
Following the trip, the Denver Post quoted Boyle describing what needs to be worked on, with the head coach mentioning the need for consistency and improvement on the defensive end.
The European trip also allowed Colorado to try out the team’s six true freshmen, with forward Josh Scott being the standout of the group. Scott was the leading scorer in several of the Buffs' exhibition games, including racking up 24 points in an 88-86 loss to the Belgium Pro team Gembo BBC Borgerhout.
Oregon State Beavers
Key take-home messages: The Beavers look to be filling in the big gap left behind in the absence of Oregon State standout Jared Cunningham after he left for the NBA.
Oregon State went to Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. Like the other Pac-12 teams, the Beavers seemed to really enjoy themselves on the tour; for a list of trip highlights from the players and coaches, click here.
Oregon State went 4-0 on the tour, and while it is difficult to judge performance from exhibition games, the Beavers do seem like a unified group. Oregon State notably lost their leading scorer, Cunningham, to the NBA draft this year.
According to Beavers' head coach Craig Robinson, the team is adjusting to the loss just fine:
I have said all summer, understands that we all have to pick it up because we don't have Jared. We have to be much better on defense than what we were on this trip. I think we are getting there…It looks like we don't have as much to worry about with our offense as we thought we'd have. We had some guys step it up. Angus is scoring points, Ahmad is scoring more, Roberto is scoring more and Devon is scoring more. So all we need is four more points apiece from those guys and that's 16 points right there.
Key take-home messages: Shabazz Muhammad is not the only player on the Bruins' squad with serious basketball talent.
Muhammad missed out on the China trip due to an ongoing NCAA investigation, and Tony Parker sat out while recovering from an injury. However, this did not stop the UCLA Bruins from pulling off a solid 3-0 record on their tour of China.
This situation allowed for two other top UCLA 2012 recruits, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, along with some returning Bruins and transfers, to shine.
It's difficult to translate exhibition wins against teams in China into how UCLA will perform this upcoming season. However, the Bruins do seem to be living up to expectations, and one can only expect that the return of Muhammad and Parker will greatly help that.
One big concern for Bruins fans has been the physical condition of Josh Smith. Prior to the trip, The Sporting News quoted Howland as saying, “I’m disappointed where he’s at, that he’s not further along with his conditioning. That’s just being honest, being truthful.”
There have been mixed reports about Smith’s performance on the trip. In UCLA’s 116-68 win over Tsinghua University, Smith had a total of 18 points. Describing that game, the LA Times pointed out that Smith's height was simply too much for the opposing team to match:
UCLA center Joshua Smith grabbed an offensive rebound at one point and started to pump fake, only to realize the two men guarding him stood a foot shorter. He simply reached up and laid the ball off the glass.
Bruins basketball fans reporting for Bruinsnation.com had a more critical opinion of Smith’s performance during UCLA’s later win over the Shanghai Sharks, suggesting the player was “checked out mentally.” In that game, Smith had three points, six rebounds, one turnover and two steals.
The question of whether Smith’s performance and condition will remain similar to last year still seems unanswered at this point.
Utah Runnin' Utes
Key take-home messages: Utah looks likely to better itself from last season’s six-win performance, but just how much so is still in question, particularly in a much stronger Pac-12 Conference this coming season.
It’s difficult to know where to start with a basketball program that finished last along with USC in the Pac-12 last season, after winning a total of six games and then basically starting with an entirely new team for the second year in a row.
It also has to be taken into account that this is a program that was recently ranked No. 20 by ESPN in the 50 most successful programs in the last 50 years.
Things do look to be making a turn for the better for the Utes, who didn’t win a game on the road last season.
Utah finished their Brazil tour with a 2-2 record, winning their first and last matches of the tour. For the Utes, it was a series of physical exhibitions: a situation head coach Larry Krystkowiak pointed out when, on August 9th, he tweeted, “I have never been involved in a more physical game than last night and after watching the video I'm glad no one got hurt.our [sic] guys battle.”
CBSSports quoted Krystkowiak as saying:
The thing I like most about us is our depth. We have two guys battling at every position. It's a really good motivator. Knowing that if you're not carrying your weight, someone else is there to take your position.
For a team that has seen as much turnover as Utah has seen over the past couple of years, the team solidarity being described by Krystkowiak would be a much-welcomed change.
Key take-home messages: Washington looks to be performing in a manner similar to the way they have in the past: competitive, but relying heavily on strong second-half performances.
Abdul Gaddy and CJ Wilcox look to be stepping up, and Andrew Andrews (redshirted last season) is making his presence known, but the loss of Terrence Ross may well prove to be a problem for the Huskies on the perimeter this season.
The Washington Huskies lost three players after last season, including their top two scorers (Ross and Tony Wroten Jr.), who went in the first round of the NBA Draft. The Huskies won the 2012 Pac-12 regular season, failed to get an NCAA bid, and made it to the semifinals of the postseason NIT.
The Huskies are the only remaining Pac-12 team currently on a foreign tour—theirs will wrap up this coming week. The tour takes the Huskies to Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal.
In the Huskies’ second game of the tour, Abdul Gaddy made a half-court shot that took Washington into overtime against the Spanish professional team Zaragoza. UW won that game, 74-73, in overtime, their second one-possession win on the tour.
Washington lost its third game against a professional team in France, 93-66, going 1-14 on three-point shots. The Huskies will play in Monaco later today before heading to Africa to finish up the tour.
Looking forward, one of the bigger concerns with the Huskies is recruiting, something head coach Lorenzo Romar has been solid with in the past. This past recruiting season, aside from Florida International transfer Gilles Dierickx, who will have to sit out a year, Washington did not bring in any new scholarship players.
The 2013 recruiting class could end up being a major score for the Huskies and Romar. Two top-ranked recruits, Aaron Gordon and Jabari Bird, have expressed very strong interest in the Washington program. Gordon was a standout star and MVP winner at the recent Under Armour Elite 24 Game, where Bird also put in a strong performance.
In that game, Gordon had 25 points and seven rebounds. At the event Gordon told SLAM, “I might have done a little extra because this was an All-Star Game, but I always like to bring entertainment to the game.”
Update: Bird gave a verbal commitment to Cal, canceling his remaining visits. The Huskies went 3-3 in Europe and play the final exhibition game of the trip in Senegal this Friday.
Washington State Cougars
Key take-home messages: Washington State’s all-league forward Brock Motum looks to bring back serious talent to the Cougars.
The Cougars' trip to Australia was a chance for Washington State’s Motum to shine. Motum scored at least 21 points during each of the Cougars’ five games on the tour, including one in which he scored 41 points.
Reggie Moore added 18 points to Motum's 41 in an 86-81 loss to the Cairns Taipans. Mike Ladd had three double-figure rebound games on the tour, which Washington State finished with a 2-3 win-loss record.
On his return to Australia, Motum blogged about the experience by saying:
Today we had the day free to go off on our own and explore the Gold Coast...It was cool that the team got to see around where I am from and places near where I grew up. A lot of the crowd tonight at the game was either my family or friends, which was a nice homecoming to see so many of them come out and support us…It was a good challenge; they were a lower ranked team but played well as a TEAM. We didn't execute some of our offenses and had lapses on defense at times however overall I think we learned a lot and that was this tour is about, not about being good and winning games now but taking steps forward to win come November, through to March. (via WSU Cougars blog)
Washington State head coach Ken Bone had similar sentiments on the trip, blogging the following:
From a basketball standpoint, I am very pleased with how the guys performed the last game. We didn't always play great but we had good moments throughout the trip. But that last game was against probably the best team we played during the tour, in front of a small but loud hostile crowd against a big, strong, physical NBL (National Basketball League) team which is one of the top teams over there with some great players. I loved the way the guys approached and competed in the game playing down to the last few seconds and I think that that type of game could really lead into the fall workouts and hopefully our season. (via WSU Cougars Blog)
Unfortunately for Washington State, promising prospect Demarquise “Que” Johnson was ruled a partial qualifier and is not eligible to play this coming season. Johnson plans to remain at WSU, but his addition to the team would likely have provided some solid support for the Cougars this coming season.
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