1. Arizona (23-4, 11-4) — Visits from the Washington schools didn’t provide the stiffest challenges, but Arizona took care of both the Huskies and the Cougars with ease last week. Defense is an issue at times, with coach Sean Miller describing it as “terrible” after beating WSU 73-56. The Wildcats allowed Washington State to shoot 52.2 percent in the second half, and would have been in more trouble had the Cougs shot better than 14 of 28 at the line.
2. Cal (18-9, 10-5) — Conference-leading scorer Allen Crabbe has gone a bit cold lately, but Justin Cobbs ensured that a Bear would be named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the third straight time. In his past six games, Cobbs is averaging 16.6 points on 53.4-percent shooting, his best stretch since November. Cal plays its last three games at home and is at least slightly favored in each.
3. UCLA (20-7, 10-4) — The Bruins’ offense is syncing again three bumpy weeks, helped in part by better ball movement and shot selection. They’ve made 6 of 12 from beyond the arc in each of their past two games. UCLA is likely without forward Travis Wear (sprained foot) for at least another game, which is a troubling prospect as it prepares to host ASU and Arizona. Continue reading →
At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, Parker is UCLA’s lone true big man — an asset that, if developed, would solve one of the Bruins’ most glaring woes. He’s yet to become that frontcourt salve, a combination of poor health and inconsistent play keeping him off the floor.
That changed a bit Sunday, as he pick-and-rolled his way to eight first-half points in a 75-59 win at USC. When UCLA tips off against Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the freshman will get another chance to earn minutes.
“It’s just teaching him to play with physicality,” coach Ben Howland said. “He’s got a great lower body. He’s got good strength. He’s got good hands.”
The downsides? His defense, while improving, isn’t where it should be. He dribbles too often in the low post, giving opposing defenders a chance to block his shot. Continue reading →
Shabazz Muhammad’s eye is finally opening up again after swelling up with pink eye last week. The freshman swingman shot just 2 of 7 from the field at USC on Sunday, and said his condition was a factor.
“It seemed unproportionate,” Muhammad said of his vision. “Couldn’t really see out of my right eye. But it’s really open now, so I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
UCLA’s leading scorer will be getting a set of prescription goggles soon to wear in practice, but he plans to wear contacts in games. He has never worn goggles during basketball before and said he doesn’t want to risk it affecting his play.
Muhammad was also named Tuesday to the midseason top-30 list for the Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. Cal guard Allen Crabbe was the only other Pac-12 player to make the cut.
The UCLA offense’s most-missed departure is busy bumping his NFL stock. Yesterday, Johnathan Franklin finished in 4.49 seconds, ahead of Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and behind only three other tailbacks at the NFL Combine.
Not a bad follow-up to a season that ended with All-American and Doak Walker finalist honors. What will the Bruins do next fall without their all-time career rushing leader?
In Andy Staples’ SI.com story, quarterback Brett Hundley weighed in.
Hundley might be a bit biased since he played with redshirt freshman tailback Paul Perkins at Chandler High in suburban Phoenix, but Hundley believes Perkins has the tools to be the next great UCLA back. “He’s under the radar a lot,” Hundley said. “But I promise everybody that he’s going to be a monster.”
Jim Mora has said he expects to replace Franklin by committee — Damien Thigpen, Jordon James and Steve Manfro all touched the ball last year — but did name-drop Perkins as a promising player a few times throughout the season. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound back was named to Arizona’s all-state first team as a senior, and also played some safety at Chandler.