Player of the Week
Justin Cobbs, PG, California Golden Bears
The sophomore Cobbs has established himself as an integral piece of the Bears perimeter attack which also features a pair of pre-season all conference candidates in defensive specialist combo guard Jorge Gutierrez and sharp shooting wing man Allan Crabbe. Cobbs is a skilled pg who can get all the way to the rim and has size to finish. He has an excellent mid range game with the ability to break his man down off the dribble and a has a smooth shot with good hang time to hit over contesting defense. He is gaining confidence with his freedom to attack on offense and is becoming more assertive. This past week in wins over Colorado and Utah, Cobbs averaged 19 points, 10.5 assists and had more steals then turnovers helping improves Cal's record to 22-6 overall. I mentioned Justin in the last blog as an under the radar sophomore to keep an eye on who could break out next season, but if he can keep up his current play, there might be no need to wait till next season before he emerges and makes a name for himself, possibly this March when it counts the most.
David Kravish, PF, Cal Bears
It was not my intention to make this a Cal basketball-centric week, but I have to bring up yet another Golden Bear who has stepped his game up as of late in freshman big man David Kravish. Kravish has been given a larger role following the suspension of big man Richard Solomon due to academic issues about a month back, and he has done his best to alleviate the loss. David has a very nice touch around the paint and does a good job keeping the ball up high and not bringing it down low allowing for smaller players to reach in. He doesn't provide much of a physical presence as he needs to add quite a bit of weight to his frame, but the offensive skills and his confidence level at that end of the court are intriguing. He averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in a pair of wins over the Oregon schools this past week. He also posted an impressive 18 rebound performance just two weeks ago versus the USC Trojans. His improvement gives the Bears an inside player who can provide points and keep defenses honest.
Player of the Week
Brock Motum, PF Washington State
It would be entirely justifiable to give this award to Arizona's Kyle Fogg, who averaged 18.5 points in two huge victories over the bay area schools this past week, due to team success. But I just can not ignore the outstanding individual play of Wazzu's junior 6-10 big man Brock Motum. Washington State lost their leading scorer in senior SG Faisal Aden two weeks ago to a season ending injury, and the team desperately needed someone to step up in his place and assume a greater scoring role. In the three games since Aden's loss, Brock has scored 25, 26 and 34 points doing everything in his power to put the Cougars on his back. In that three game stretch, he shot 65% from the field, grabbed 9 boards per and showed his perimeter versatility by stepping out and connecting on 5 of 9 three point attempts. The team is struggling in the win/loss column, but they are competitive and a tough game for opponents primarily due to their star big man.
Josh Smith, UCLA
After pointing how Smith was sliding in terms of minutes and production in my last blog, we have since been given a glimpse of the tantalizing skilled big man that many expected to be a key piece in leading the UCLA program towards success. Josh was dominant inside this past week vs the Washington schools to the tune of 21.5 points on 17 of 22 field goal attempts and 7 boards per. The defense has looked helpless once Smith seals his man deep and the help has to get to him before the ball or risk being pushed around. It remains to be seen if Smith can turn this into some momentum and grow from these games showing consistency, but the manner in which he played with passion and aggressiveness is promising.
Player of the Week
Faisal Aden, Washington State Cougars
No team had a better week than the Cougars as they held court against the Conference's top 2 teams in Cal and Stanford. Senior SG Faisal Aden led the way offensively scoring 24 vs Cal on 9 of 12 shooting and then followed that up with 33 against Stanford on 10 of 17 shooting. The talented guard has shown flashes of offensive brilliance in the past but is prone to inconsistency with hot streaks intertwined with cold shooting streaks making him an unreliable player. It is for this reason that Aden comes off the bench in a spark plug type role while rarely seeing 30 minutes of action. But when he's on, like he was this past week, the Cougars are a tough team to beat.
Travis Wear, UCLA Bruins
Travis continues to improve and plays a very well rounded game showcasing both a decent outside shot and soft touch in the paint. He needs to improve his toughness and get stronger, but there is a very solid skill set in place for the sophomore big man to continue to develop. Over his past 5 games, Travis has averaged 17.6 points on over 69% shooting from the field. He and his brother David provide solid building blocks going forward for a disappointing Bruins squad.
Stanford was arguably the Pac 12's best squad in the Non Conference slate and looked like a team that would have a very good shot at winning the Pac 12 and being one of the few teams in the Conference to put together a solid enough resume to earn an at large bid if they came up short of the tournament title. However, even at a respectable 5-3 in conference record, they just haven't looked particularly impressive. All 3 of their losses have been by double digits and they have narrowly escaped some tough games vs UCLA, Oregon State and Utah that could have gone either way. The Cardinal need to continue to work the ball inside out and start knocking down open jumpers.
Player of the Week
Carlon Brown, Colorado Buffaloes
Brown was lights out this past week in leading the Buffaloes to a sweep of the Washington schools scoring 23 points per in the two games on 59% shooting from the field including 9 of 15 from three point land. The 6-5 senior wing man is stepping up as a scorer who can both shoot from the outside as well as use his solid frame to get into the paint and play through contact. Colorado leads the Pac 12 at 3-0 out of the gate and will look to validate their candidacy as a team to beat in the conference with a pair of upcoming road games versus the Bay Area schools, Stanford and Cal.
Joe Burton, Oregon State Beavers
The 6-7 280 pound big man has steadily been improving and showing more consistency. Joe is an excellent high post passer who loves to hang outside showing off his passing abilities and court vision while the wings play off the ball using screens and back cuts looking to get open. But as the season progresses, he is now looking to establish himself down low demonstrating his own offensive repetoire. In 4 Conference games, Burton is averaging 16 points on 66% shooting to go with 7 boards.
Happy Holidays NBADraft.net community. It's time for Conference play out West to get under way and the Pac 12 is wide open with some solid but unspectacular teams all vying for the inaugural Pac 12 crown. No one has the right to feel particularly confident about their current resume as it stands that will be presented to the selection committee come March. It's an up for grabs conference, and with that said, let the games begin.
Player of the Week
Tony Wroten, Washington Huskies
Wroten has taken it up a notch in the month of December and will be heading into the new year with a lot of momentum as both a Pac 12 player of the year candidate and a climbing NBA prospect for the upcoming draft. These past 5 games, he has averaged over 22ppg and 5 rebounds. He has taken up even more of a score first mentality and shown rising aggressiveness attacking the defense over showcasing traditional point guard duties. He gets to the rim at will and has an excellent ability to get his defender off balance with a series of herky jerky moves before exploding into the paint and using his long stride and length to cover ground quickly. His jumper is still a weak spot and the turnovers haven't slowed down, but there are few basketball players on the college scene who have the overall skill set Wroten possesses.
Lazeric Jones, UCLA Bruins
Jones got off to a horrible start to begin the season but has bounced back in a big way establishing himself as the hands down most important member and go to guy for the Bruins. He has the swagger of a player who truly believes he is the best guy on the court and is unafraid to take the big shots. His ability to create and pull up off the dribble has always been there, it's just been a matter of consistently knocking shots down which Lazeric has been doing lately. In UCLA's 7 games in the month of December, Jones has averaged 18 points and shot 56% from the field and 58% from three. But maybe even more impressive is that, despite the Bruins relying so heavily on him to create offense, he has turned the ball over only 3 times total during those 7 contests protecting the rock and making sound decisions.
Player of the Week
Allen Crabbe, California Bears
Crabbe has been steadily becoming more efficient from the field after a somewhat slow start to the year. Over his past 5 games, he has averaged 20 ppg, hitting over 50% fg along with 6 rebounds while only turning it over once per contest. He seems to be getting into his groove shooting from the outside where he has looked really comfortable squaring up and getting his shot off in the blink of an eye before the defender has a chance to contest. The next step towards becoming an all around scoring threat will be attacking the paint with more frequency and getting to the FT line more often.
Garrett Sim, Oregon Ducks
Sim has been getting the job done and has been a major bright spot for the Ducks who have rebounded from their opening game loss to Vanderbilt by taking 5 of their last 6 games. Sim has averaged 15 points over that 6 game stretch and shot over 50% from the field in the process. He does a lot of the little things that don't show in the boxscores, and also has a solid assist to turnover ratio while hitting a total of 24-26 from the ft line. Sim has been a very efficient pg and has the Ducks looking like one of the more competitive Pac 12 squads in the early going.
Player of the Week
Jorge Gutierrez, California Bears
Over the past week, Jorge Gutierrez averaged 15.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg and has once again established himself as the heart and soul of the #23 ranked Bears as well as a strong candidate for conference player of the year. Despite a respectable 4-1 record, it was a down week overall for Mike Montgomery's team as they were embarrassed by Missouri in a match up that really stung for the Pac 12 as a whole, looking to get a quality win. But don't blame Gutierrez for the disappointing outcome as he has been rock solid as expected and will look to lead the team back into the good graces of hoops analysts around the nation.
Team of the week
The Cardinal were expected to be a solid but unspectacular squad this season. However, they have jumped out of the gate and looked as impressive as any team in the Pac 12 with a 7-1 start to the year. They had an opportunity to send a message that they were a team to look out for with their NIT championship game match up versus the 5th ranked Syracuse Orangemen. The boys from Palo Alto California hung right with their Big East foes, leading.for the majority of the game before wilting over the final minutes getting outscored 15-3 to finish the game and eventually losing by a score of 69-63. But it wasn't the type of loss to hang your head about, and they earned a lot of respect along the way.
Keala King, Arizona State Sun Devils
After a slow start to the season, 6-4 combo guard Keala King has come on strong in his last 2 games vs Wake Forest and Depaul averaging 23.5ppg and 6.5rpg while connecting on 14-22 field goal attempts. Keala is an intriguing player with his versatility and willingness to create off the dribble either for himself or his teammates. If he continues his play of late, he and junior SF Trent Lockett will combine to make of the more dangerous duos out West.
Player of the Week
CJ Wilcox, Washington Huskies
The Huskies are off to an impressive 3-0 start, although they haven't been truly tested against a top team yet (that will come December 6th and 10th when they play back to back games vs top 25 programs Marquette and Duke). There is plenty of praise to spread around about their players at this point, but the player who has stood out above the rest has been sophomore wing man CJ Wilcox. Wilcox leads the team at 19.3 ppg, as well as 5 rpg and just under 3 steals per as well. But it is his shooting that truly stands out. I stated in my Conference preview that Wilcox was the Pac 12's top 3 point shooter and so far, he's making me look good. He has hit 11-18 threes (61%) and his misses are off by centimeters. With all the great ball handlers on Washington, Wilcox represents easy offense with catch and shoot instincts after the likes of Gaddy, Wroten and Ross break opponents down off the dribble.
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State Beavers
Consider Cunningham as player of the week 1b. He is off to a great start with 22ppg and is continuing to make a run at Oregon State's all time steals record, he is currently at 2.7 per game. And all while leading the Beavers back into relevancy at 3-0 so far. Cunningham is a high flyer who plays above the rim, and is as good an athlete as there is in the Pac 12. He can take his man iso off the dribble and he really benefits from the team's defensive philosophy of trapping and attacking the opposing ball handlers to create turnovers using sound basic defensive fundamentals which allows him to get into passing lanes and play in transition.
Lazeric Jones, UCLA Bruins
It was well known that the preseason top 25 ranked Bruins were mediocre on the perimeter. But after 2 games, mediocrity would be an improvement. Lazeric Jones is a senior who started every game last year and was solid. But to start this season he is 3-20 from the field (1-7 from three) and is making as many turnovers as assists. And considering he is averaging 33 minutes a game and is leaned on to create halfcourt offense when the bigs get doubled, it's no surprise the Bruins are struggling. Jones starting backcourt mate sophomore Tyler Lamb has not been much better shooting 5/18 from the floor and has yet to hit a three while playing 28 minutes per.
Top 5 breakout candidates
Brock Motum, Washington State- Motum is averaging 20ppg and 8 rpg and shooting a blistering 67% from the field. He is a skilled big man who can step out to three point land and does a good job of making himself available and finishes well in traffic catching passes from his penetrating teammates.
Jesse Perry, Arizona- Perry has recorded 4 double doubles in 5 games for the 4-1 Wildcats. He is the inside enforcer for a small, perimeter oriented Arizona squad. He fits in well because he is also able to get out and run, play on the perimeter and guard multiple positions during switches which allows him to stay on the court with his fast paced teammates.
Aaron Bright, Stanford- At 4-0 somebody from Stanford deserves a shout out. Bright is a sophomore who wasn't expected to be the Cardinal's leading scorer, which he has been thus far as well as the teams leading assist man. He is shooting lights out, playing very efficient ball: 49% from 2, 52% from 3 and 80% from the foul line.
Aziz NDiaye, Washington- With all the perimeter talent for Washington, it's N'Diaye who will have as big an impact as any of them determining how far they go. The 7 foot center must protect the paint and establish some sort of inside presence. So far he has stepped up to the challenge averaging 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per contest.
Josh Watkins, Utah- The numbers might be somewhat bittersweet as the Utes have not looked competitive yet, but don't take anything away from Watkins. He is shooting over 50% from the floor and averaging 21 ppg while also dishing out 5 assists. He can only do so much for his team though and will need some support if they want to win games.