Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Altman says defense will earn Ducks minutes
In this week's Pac-12 basketball coaches teleconference, Dana Altman voices his concerns over the Oregon Ducks' defense, Ken Bone discusses another injury to guard DaVonte Lacy and Steve Alford quotes John Wooden.
Oregon's Dana Altman
Oregon's deep rotation includes 10 players averaging at least 11 minutes per game. If any players are unhappy about their minutes, Altman has an easy solution noting the Ducks' questionable defense that nearly cost them against Utah and, two days later, did in a loss to Colorado. “They know how to get minutes if they've got any complaints,” he deadpanned.
Altman doesn't believe there is a favorite or even two that could win the national championship this year. Even though it's early in the season, he doesn't think a team like the Kentucky Wildcats squad led by Anthony Davis a few years ago will separate itself. “That's a tough question to answer on Jan. 7," Altman said. "So much of it is matchups and how you're playing at a time. There isn't a dominant team, if that's your question.”
On whether the transfers that are a big part of the Ducks' rotation had a difficult time meshing with Altman's team: “Fortunately, the guys who have come in have been real easy to work with. Offensively we've hit our stride pretty quickly. Defensively we've got a long ways to go.”
Washington State's Ken Bone
More bad news for the Cougs. Leading scorer DaVonte Lacy is injured again. After he returned to play 11 minutes against ASU following an appendectomy, the WSU guard suffered a rib injury and will be out another week, at least. “I think it's the cartilage between his rib bone and muscle that has been stretched or strained,” Bone said. “He's going to be out a little bit.”
Bone said his biggest concern without Lacy is finding good shots from the players available, something they didn't do against Arizona, but did improve upon at Arizona State. “We're trying to put it together and see how we can manufacture points a little better with DaVonte out,” Bone said.
On the Cougars' psyche after setting a McKale Center-low 25 points scored: “I was really concerned about the beginning of the ASU game. I was really glad DaVonte was in uniform. I think that helped our psyche. I think we handled the beating we took in Tucson. It's not like we've forgotten about it, but we've moved on and learned from it.”
Arizona's Sean Miller
Yes, the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats have a very good defensive team. But Sean Miller wasn't going to go far in saying that had much to do with the Washington State Cougars scoring a McKale Center-low 25 points this past week, when UA won 60-25. “For me not to say Washington State wasn't playing shorthanded would almost be irresponsible,” Miller said. “I think that was more the story than how hard or well we played defensively. You kind of chalk it up to something you don't see a lot of.”
But seriously, why does Arizona have such a good defensive team? Miller said it's a combination of time to implement ideals and time to recruit. “As time moves forward, especially as you enter year five (at Arizona) like us, you have a chance to do something better fundamentally,” he said. “We have length on our team. I think it's our size that helps us not foul. You don't realize how much size means in basketball until you have it or play against it.”
Miller on the UCLA-Arizona rivalry and where it stands: “It’s like Syracuse and Georgetown when you had John Thompson and Jim Boeheim, like Florida and Kentucky with Billy Donovan and John Calipari. UCLA and Arizona, I would put it in the same context.”
Stanford's Johnny Dawkins
Center Stefan Nastic has come into his own this season, and Dawkins said he's seen the junior's confidence grow since playing on a junior Serbian national team this summer and then coming into the season having fought through some adversity. “I think it's the players on the team believing in him and going to him,” Dawkins added.
On forward Dwight Powell, who is shooting 57 percent from the foul stripe as a senior despite making more than 70 percent in his past two seasons: “We're working through it. It's something he can shoot himself out of. I think it's a matter of him going to the line and getting comfortable.”
Oregon State's Craig Robinson
The Beavers aren't down on themselves despite losing to Utah and Colorado. “I was a tad bit concerned that losing a couple of games to the mountain schools would have our guys a little bit down but they're excited to play at home,” Robinson said. “So far, so good.”
Robinson was the first to admit guard Roberto Nelson has a lot on his plate. The Beavs would like to see him become more of a defensive rock on top of being the team's leading scorer. That doesn't mean he shouldn't score more. “He's the most unselfish leading scorer that I've ever been around,” Robinson said. “Sometimes I have to beg him to take more shots.”
On OSU's next opponent, Stanford: “On tape, they're long. Every single one of their players who play are extremely skillful, so you can't really help (on defense) too much. They shoot the ball well.”
UCLA's Steve Alford
Alford wants the Bruins to play fast, and he went with a John Wooden quote to explain the process in getting the tempo up. “'We want to play fast, we want to play quick but we don't want to be in a hurry,'” Alford said. “I think we've improved defensively a little in the last three weeks. That should help our offense.”
Something will have to give on Thursday, when the Bruins, the NCAA's second-best shooting team at 52.7 percent, faces college's sixth-best field goal defense. The Arizona Wildcats allow teams to hit just 36.6 percent from the floor. Then, UCLA will need to worry about rebounding. “I think of our 14 opponents, this is by far the best defensive team we've played to date,” Alford said. “They're athletic, big, physical. They keep people in front. It will be a great test.”
On point-forward Kyle Anderson's leadership: “He has worked really hard at leading this team, because it's a young team with not much experience on it. He's grasped it, he's put both hands around it.”
USC's Andy Enfield
Enfield had a rude awakening while coaching his first Pac-12 game. His USC Trojans fell 107-73 to UCLA and Enfield hinted that things snowballed on his squad. “(The Bruins are) good shooters but they made a lot of shots in bunches against us. I think it got us off our gameplan and our players started to press a little bit.”
The Trojans coach didn't notice any nasty or funny comments from Bruins fans when USC played at Pauley Pavilion. He was too worried about the unraveling happening on the court. Or maybe he just couldn't repeat what he heard. “I've been coaching since 1994, and I could write a book on what fans yell to coaches and referees,” Enfield said.
At the end of the day, Enfield said UCLA simply outplayed USC. “The UCLA-USC rivalry has been around for decades,” he said. “It's exciting, but as soon as the ball is tipped it's another basketball game. You have to play. I think a lot of the hype around rivalries are pregame.”
Washington's Lorenzo Romar
What's the biggest improvement for the Huskies of late? “Positioning where we were supposed to be defensively,” Romar said. “Our understanding of it all…it's hard to communicate with one another when you don't know what you're supposed to be doing (yourself).”
That said, Romar wouldn't exactly call his team a defensive juggernaut after splitting games on the road against the Arizona schools. “We've made big strides, but I don't think we're a great defensive team yet,” the UW coach said. “We were so poor, anything would have been progress. I think we're functional now.”
Arizona State's Herb Sendek
Sendek understands that a lucrative TV contract will determine scheduling, but he did admit there are disadvantages to playing on Sundays. This week, the Sun Devils visit USC on Thursday but then hang around Los Angeles to play UCLA on Sunday night. “Sunday is traditionally the one day off the student athletes get in a week,” Sendek said. “If you play on Sunday, that's a highly charged day obviously, and then you're right back in class on Monday morning. You don't have a traditional day of rest for your kids.”
Asked to describe what is so rare about Creighton's Doug McDermott, who scorched the Sun Devils for 27 points in late November, Sendek said it had everything to do with his relentless and aggressive nature. “There's few guys, if any, in college basketball that compete and play as hard as he does on both ends of the floor. It really manifests itself on offense. The way he cuts, and posts and moves. There's a toughness to his game. A big part of that is because of his aggressiveness. He gets to the foul line more, I think.”
On ASU's improvements that need to be made, Sendek cited the team's man-to-man defense and added that he felt like his team was “sidestepping” on offense. He said the Sun Devils must improve on offense by “taking care of the ball better and making each other better.”