Player of the Week
CJ Wilcox, Washington Huskies
The Washington Huskies had relatively high expectations coming into this season. Despite losing 2 key pieces to the first round of last year’s NBA draft (Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten), there was plenty of returning talent as well as some who believed there might be some addition by subtraction with a squad that was more team oriented and saw less one on one individualistic basketball. In fact the Huskies were the one team other then UCLA and Arizona to receive first place votes during the Pac 12 media day pre-season rankings. Well things have not gone as smooth as Lorenzo Romar and Husky fans had hoped. The out of conference slate saw the team go a modest 8-5 with no resume boosting key wins of note.
Now with all that said, as has happened in recent years, the Huskies appear to be making a run and putting things together with hopes of building a NCAA tourney caliber resume by tearing through the Pac 12. The Huskies are 3-0 to start conference play with all three games being on the road and have won 7 of the last 8 overall.
Now to get to the “player of the week” portion of this blog, I want to point out the play of junior shooting guard CJ Wilcox who has been the key in leading this Washington turn around. Wilcox has been considered a 2013 first round pick for a while now on this site and was a part of my pre-season all Pac 12 first team selections. He has now in recent weeks been living up those expectations. In leading the Huskies strong play as of late, Wilcox has put 21ppg, 8rpg and shot 48% from three in conference play. CJ is a knock down shooter who has a solid combination of NBA caliber size (6’-6’’) and athleticism. He is not a guy who can consistently create his own play at the next level, but he wont be exposed for lack of all-around skills while he establishes himself as a shooting specialist. With senior pg Abdul Gaddy struggling, Wilcox is leaned on more then ever to show leadership and carry the offensive load and right now he is stepping up and has the Huskies off to a start that might just keep them in the pac 12 hunt and salvage the team’s season.
Solomon Hill, Arizona Wildcats
I’ve never been too high on Solomon as an NBA caliber player because I just felt like he lacked next level NBA perimeter skills and was a good at everything great at nothing type that might not have a calling card to find his niche at the next level. But in recent weeks, Hill has been very impressive. His ball handling, three point shooting and aggressive attack the basket mentality have all been on display leading the Wildcats to a 3-1 start to Pac 12 play with personal averages of 17 points and 7 rebounds per game while also knocking down 12/18 three point attempts. The Wildcats have gotten to their 15-1 start and top 10 ranking with well rounded team oriented play, but it is nice to have a single guy who can step up and enforce his will as a go to player like Solomon Hill has done lately.
Jonathan Gilling, Arizona State Sun Devils
Despite the Sun Devil’s 14-3 record on the year, they are not given much recognition as one of the better Pac 12 teams as they have mostly stockpiled wins against less then stellar competition. Well Herb Sendek and crew had the opportunity last Sunday night to alter that by going on the road and taking down the Oregon Ducks who were fresh off a victory over Zona. However it was not to be as the Devils and Ducks battled back and forth from beginning to end with ASU coming up just short. One starter who failed to step up and deliver was sophomore shooting specialist Jonathan Gilling. Gilling is a 6-7 forward who has the role of designated shooter on the squad. He attempted over 4 threes per game last season where he shot 41% from that distance on the year. Coming into this year he was off to another solid start from deep and embraced his “green light” status where he gets up close to 7 three point attempts per game. But unfortunately the shots have stopped falling for Gilling as of late. He was 1-5 from 3 in that aforementioned Oregon game and is a miserable 4 for 22 from three in 4 conference games thus far. For a guy who plays big minutes and is relied on for his shooting, those numbers just will not suffice.
Upcoming Game of the Week
Oregon at UCLA, Sat 19th
#24 vs #21. That’s the rankings these teams currently hold in the Associated Press’s top 25 poll. There has not been too many top 25 battles in recent years for the Pac 12 since few teams have been able to climb that high. So now we have a case where a couple squads will have to fight and win if they want to make sure that ranking doesn’t disappear as quickly as it arrived.
The Ducks are a deep team where leading scorer freshman Damyean Dotson averages under 12 points a night. Dotson’s backcourt mate is fellow freshman Dominic Artis who is a very quick and confident player. The front court is led by do it all sf EJ singler, rebounding leader Aslan Kazemi and the athletic high flying center Tony Woods, all three of which are seniors who have tons of experience and don’t get rattled.
The Bruins have come on strong winners of 9 in a row and have everyone around America paying attention to the young guys out in Westwood. Led by freshman wing players Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, the Bruins like to get out and run. The Wear twins also can get hot and keep defenses honest who want to pack the lane vs the guards.
Should be a great game with the winner having a strong argument for best out west.
Top 5 Point guards
1-Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Let me start by saying that I’m a true believer in Jahii. He not only is a legit candidate to win pac 12 player of the year this season, but if he comes back for his sophomore season and beyond, he will be as close to a household name Tempe has seen since James Harden was in town. This guy gets wherever he wants. His mistakes/misses are for the most part his own doing, not the man guarding him. He has the flashy passing ability while also being more then smart enough to run the basic pick in role when it’s appropriate. The only real knock on him is that his perimeter shooting is less then stellar(30% from three on the season) and at 5-10, he can struggle to get his shot off over taller opponents.
2-Mark Lyons, Arizona
Lyons has that clutch gene. You know the one that you can not fake, that says give me the ball and get out of my way when the game is on the line. Lyons demands the basketball down the stretch of close games (which for anyone paying attention to Arizona knows has been routine). Lyons can shoot from deep and get into the paint where he does a great job of hanging in the air and maintaining concentration finishing with runners and floaters. Not a true pg though as he averages only around 3 assists per game.
3-Justin Cobbs, California
Cobbs has slowed down in recent weeks after a blistering start to the season. But even at his worst, Cobbs is an excellent ball handler with the ability to break his man down one on one in half court sets. He is an inconsistent shooter, but it doesn’t help that teammates are not drawing attention away form him and he has to work for almost every look he gets. One knock on Cal this year is that despite the great individual offensive abilities of Cobbs and his backcourt mate Allen Crabbe, the team too often relies on watching those guys over dribble and force their own play with lack of ball movement.
4-Askia Booker, Colorado
Many don’t actually consider Booker the pg for the Colorado Buffaloes, and to be fair wing man Spencer Dinwiddie shares those playmaking responsibilities as much as anyone. Booker in fact only averages 2 assists per game and has more of a shoot first mentality. With that being said, Booker is the guy most often relied on to create plays late in clocks and break the team out of slumps when things boggle down. He can get hot and take over games for stretches. Askia currently leads the Buffaloes in scoring at 15 points per game and is probably the primary object of attention for opposing defenses.
5-Larry Drew, UCLA
A number of different players could have fit into this 5th spot on the list with Washington’s Abdul Gaddy and Oregon’s Dominic Artis both getting consideration. But Don’t sleep on the least heralded of the top 25 ranked Bruins starting lineup. Drew is one of the teams best defenders and averages over 8 assists per game while turning it over just 1.6 times per outing showcasing true leadership abilities that allow his other more aggressive offensively minded teammates the ability to work off the ball knowing Drew will get it to them when they are open.
- Last blog I mentioned the Arizona versus Colorado game as the upcoming game of the week. And boy did it not disappoint (unless of course you are a Buffalo fan). It was a great game that saw Arizona pull off another signature late comeback. Colorado, as well as many people around America, believe they were flat out cheated by refs who called the last second three point attempt by Colorado guard Sabatino Chen that banked in as time expired no good. Reviews were razor close and the refs didn’t allow it although it appears that it did in fact get off in time upon further review.
-Speaking of Colorado, they are off to a tough start in conference play at 1-3 falling to 11-5 overall. While they may be on the outside looking in right now in terms of NCAA tournament aspirations, don’t give up on this team. They are very talented and have a top 20 rpi nationally. If they can get their act together, they are still on of the tougher teams in the pac 12 and a squad that could make a run.
-USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neil this past week replacing him with assistant coach Bob Cantu on an interim basis. Cantu has pledged to implement a more up-tempo offense utilizing the bench more.
-Oregon State has fallen by the wayside recently losing 4 of their last 5 including starting conference play 0-3. One key missing piece is suspended center Eric Moreland who has missed the past 2 games due to conduct detrimental to the team. Moreland stands 6-11 and averages 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks on the season.
-Andre Roberson has been considered a solid NBA prospect for some time now here at NBADraft.net, but the concern about his lack of perimeter skills are still raising their ugly head. In the Buffaloes 1-3 start to conference play, Roberson has averaged just 7.5 ppg and shot 30% from the field and his shot has looked off anytime he is off balance, shooting off the dribble or even remotely guarded. When you are a 6-7 210lb sf, just being an elite defender/rebounder will not get you by at the next level. Andre will have to continue to show dedication in the gym or watch his stock drop.