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February 27, 2012
Senior Nights

by Kevin Pelton


On Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats held their Senior Day festivities in conjunction with a narrow 65-63 win over the UCLA Bruins that helped them position themselves squarely on the bubble a little less than two weeks before Selection Sunday. During the game, I couldn't help but think about Jesse Perry. A role player during his first year on campus as a JC transfer, Perry has served as Arizona's primary big man as a senior, helping replace departed Derrick Williams by creating mismatches with his quickness.

Unfortunately, this development will go largely unreported in next fall's edition of the College Basketball Prospectus series. Since Perry will have departed, he won't get a player capsule. And he's not a big enough star that his absence will get much discussion in the Arizona section of the book. So I decided it would be appropriate to give Perry and the Pac-12's other prominent seniors their moment in the spotlight in a feature as the conference either wraps up Senior Night (two of which, for Cal and Washington, were held all the way back on Feb. 18) or prepares to host it next weekend.


Kyle Fogg - Because he's been a regular since his freshman year, when Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill were still playing in Tucson, Fogg is one of those seniors who seems like he's been around forever. Since becoming a key part of the Wildcat offense as a sophomore, Fogg has been more or less the same player, with his value predicated on his three-point percentage (41.7 percent as a sophomore, 35.5 percent as a junior and all the way up to 44.3 percent this season). However, as his days on campus draw short, Fogg has unexpectedly turned into a monster rebounder. He's averaged an even 10.0 rebounds over his last four games after never before grabbing more than eight in a game in his career.

Jesse Perry - As a 6-7 center, Perry is giving up several inches on a nightly basis, but he's managed to hold his own this season and has done a terrific job of avoiding the foul trouble that would be lethal to a paper-thin Arizona rotation. On offense, Sean Miller loves to isolate Perry against slow-footed defenders and let him get to the rim, which explains one of the conference's better free throw rates.

Brendon Lavender - I was admittedly skeptical in the book of Miller's claim that Lavender was the best shooter on the conference's best shooting team. Well, all Lavender has done this season is make an even 50 percent of his triples as Arizona's designated shooter off the bench. 90 of his 106 shots have come from beyond the arc, but when you average 1.5 points per shot, that's an effective strategy.


None - Arizona State is one of just nine teams in the country that doesn't have a senior on the roster and will go dark on Senior Night.


Jorge Gutierrez - The most successful senior in the Pac-12, Gutierrez still could cap his career with a conference Player of the Year nod. Over four years in Berkeley as Mike Montgomery's first recruit, Gutierrez has made the transition from complementing Cal's trio of Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle and Theo Robertson with his defense and ballhandling to becoming a go-to star the last two seasons. Gutierrez still isn't particularly efficient on offense but makes up for it by contributing in every other area of the game. He rebounds like a small forward, can run the offense from the point and is a tenacious defender.

Harper Kamp - A skilled big man, Kamp has anchored the Golden Bears in the paint the last two seasons after missing 2009-10 due to knee surgery. Jamal Boykin emerged as a solid center for that Cal team, which lost in the round of 32, but Cal's thin bench certainly could have used Kamp that season. The upside is Kamp got a fifth year and is making a career-high 55.8 percent of his two-pointers.


Carlon Brown - It's been an odd path for Brown, who spent three years at Utah before making the rare decision to transfer and sit out a season with just a year of eligibility remaining. At the time Brown transferred, he didn't know that it would be to a conference foe, as both the Utes and the Buffaloes landed in the Pac-12 between then and now. Brown has emerged as a leader in Colorado's unexpected rise to the conference's upper half, but his prominent role in the offense obscures his inconsistent outside shooting (31.9 percent from three) and limited contributions on the glass.

Austin Dufault - Dufault and the Buffaloes' other four-year senior, Nate Tomlinson, have seen Colorado go from Big 12 doormat (going 1-15 as freshmen) to Pac-12 contender. Dufault's efficient scoring has been one reason for the transformation. He's an ideal fit next to Andre Roberson, who masks Dufault's poor defensive rebounding and benefits from the senior's ability to stretch the floor and draw opposing big men out on the perimeter.

Nate Tomlinson - Tomlinson's playing time peaked as a freshman, when he and Cory Higgins were the only real options in the backcourt. He's back nearly to that point as a senior, serving as a steadying force at point guard. Tomlinson's difficulty scoring--he went five games at the end of December with just one point--sometimes causes problems for the Buffaloes' offense, but his combination of size and ballhandling ability keeps him on the court.


Garrett Sim - Sim arrived on campus as part of one of the most heralded classes in Oregon history, which has scattered around the country and the world (at last check, Michael Dunigan was playing in Ukraine), leaving Sim as the only one around to celebrate Senior Night. The sharpshooter, who can play either guard position, saved his best basketball for his last season. By making 44.4 percent of his triples, Sim has posted the conference's best True Shooting Percentage (63.5 percent).

Devoe Joseph - One of the reasons I like to look at both kenpom.com's ratings and John Gasaway's Tuesday Truths is situations like Joseph's. Kenpom.com doesn't know that Joseph became eligible as a transfer from Minnesota six games into the season. Since then, the Ducks have climbed 11 spots in the rankings, and they're 45 spots better than when they started out conference play at No. 117. Even discounting non-conference play, Oregon has hardly been a world-beater, but the perspective shows the Ducks as a legitimate contender in the Pac-12. Joseph's average of 17.1 points per game in conference play--with strong efficiency--is a big reason why. Turns out transferring for less than a full season was a good decision in Joseph's case, as he's been able to show off his big-time scoring ability.

Olu Ashaolu - Oregon's Senior Day is bizarre because Sim, the survivor, will be honored next to guys like Ashaolu and Joseph who just turned up in Eugene this season. Surprisingly, Ashaolu has the highest usage rate on the team. He's proven accurate in the paint, shooting 58.1 percent from the field, though his poor free throw shooting is a problem. Ashaolu's value is more clear on the glass, as he's the Ducks' best rebounder.

Tyrone Nared - Originally committed to Creighton as a juco transfer, Nared followed Dana Altman to Oregon. Given how well he acquitted himself as a junior against Pac-10 foes, he might have torn up the MVC. Nared's length and energy made him a useful reserve. Alas, a knee injury has limited him as a senior.

Jeremy Jacob - Though undersized four-men have proliferated on the Ducks' roster, Jacob has squeezed out regular playing time during his third and final season in Eugene, starting more than half of Oregon's games. Statistically, Jacob's contributions are minimal. He's a poor two-point shooter (44.0 percent this season) who struggles at the line, producing ugly True Shooting Percentages.


Kevin McShane - The only senior Beaver started his career as a walk-on before earning a scholarship for his senior season. McShane knows his limitations and plays within them, producing impressive shooting percentages (he's a career 57.3 percent shooter, including 60 percent this season). Add in energy and McShane's size (6-9) and he's an ideal ninth man.


Josh Owens - Though his usage rate doesn't reflect it, there have been times this season where the Cardinal has relied more heavily on Owens than any other team in the conference on a single player. The most skilled Stanford scorer, Owens is a difficult matchup one-on-one in the post and draws regular double teams, yet still makes 59.4 percent of his two-pointers. Owens isn't as effective on the glass--physical play has never been his forte--yet he's still probably the conference's second-best big man after Washington State's Brock Motum.

Jarrett Mann - On paper, Mann's skill set--big point guard who's also a good athlete--sounds close to ideal. In practice, it hasn't worked so well. Mann is capable defensively, but his value is undermined by missed shots and turnovers. For his career, he's made just eight three-pointers and less than 40 percent of his two-point attempts. He's also coughed the ball up on nearly a third of his possessions. That caught up to Mann this season. After opening the year as a starter he's played at least 20 minutes just once in the last eight games.

Andrew Zimmermann - Zimmermann and fellow senior Jack Trotter were badly overexposed as sophomores when Owens sat out the 2009-10 season due to an undisclosed illness. This year, Johnny Dawkins has found a nice role for Zimmermann, who opens games to provide more size (and facial hair) in the frontcourt but plays around 12 minutes a night. Zimmermann is shooting a career high 55.2 percent on two-point attempts and has caused some problems on the offensive glass for opponents. Trotter, who started and averaged 25.3 minutes as a sophomore, has been replaced in the rotation recently by freshman Stefan Nastic and has totaled just 152 minutes in his senior year.


Jerime Anderson - By SAT math, Sim: Oregon :: Anderson : UCLA--the last remnant of a disappointing recruiting class. Jrue Holiday is an NBA starter, Malcolm Lee is in the league, J'mison Morgan is at Baylor and Drew Gordon is starring for New Mexico, leaving only Anderson in Westwood. Anderson's story doesn't end quite as well as Sim's, but he has definitely made strides over the course of his four years. His turnover rate is a career low and his three-point percentage (41.2 percent) a career high, making him--at last--a reliable backcourt option for Ben Howland.

Lazeric Jones - Barring a stunning late outburst by Joshua Smith or one of the Wear twins, Jones will finish his senior year as the Bruins' leading scorer, putting his name permanently in the history books. During a down era for UCLA, Jones has been a relative rock, providing the needed ability to create shots off the dribble. Jones has never been particularly efficient as a scorer, and he isn't really a true point guard, but in the context of the teams he played on Jones' strengths have stood out more than his weaknesses.


Eric Strangis - Assuming Jio Fontan receives a medical waiver for a sixth season after tearing his ACL last summer, walk-on Strangis is the lone Trojan senior. After playing at Cal Lutheran and Moorpark College, Strangis made the team but saw just seven minutes of action in his first season with USC. It's a testament to what injuries have done to Kevin O'Neill's rotation that Strangis played 23 minutes in Saturday's loss at Arizona State. To his credit, Strangis hasn't embarrassed himself playing a bigger role than he likely could have imagined. Celebrating guys like Strangis is what Senior Night is all about.


None - Technically, the Utes don't qualify for the stat referenced above because they do have a senior on the roster. However, David Foster injured his foot in Utah's exhibition loss and was lost for the season. He plans to return for a fifth year. The Utes also started the season with star guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins as a senior, but Watkins was dismissed from the team in January. So there was no celebration before Saturday's game, only one after Utah earned its third Pac-12 win by upsetting Stanford.


Darnell Gant - Depending on how the Huskies finish the season, Gant has a chance to be the first player in school history to reach the NCAA tournament four times. Already, he's the first ever to win 20-plus games all four years. That's had more to do with Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas and Terrence Ross, sure, but Gant has played a role. A versatile defender, he's turned himself into an efficient option on offense by extending his range beyond the three-point line. In fact, only one UW teammate (C.J. Wilcox) has a higher Offensive Rating this season. No wonder that when I ran plus-minus numbers for the Huskies at midseason, Gant was one of the standouts.


Marcus Capers - Capers might be the most extreme role player in the Pac-12. The defensive specialist has taken less than 10 percent of the Cougars' shots while on the floor this season (and last) but has converted nearly 60 percent of his twos. Capers is also a guard/forward who has made two career three-pointers in 19 attempts. All of this made him a much better fit next to Klay Thompson his first three seasons than on his own as a senior, which is true of the Washington State roster in general.

Abe Lodwick - Put Lodwick in a similar category. His ability to space the floor was a lot more useful next to defensive specialist DeAngelo Casto, than the similar (but superior) Motum. Still, Lodwick has made 43.9 percent of his triples as a senior. The anti-Capers in that regard, Lodwick has taken 66 threes, 15 twos and just nine free throws this season.

Faisal Aden - On nights where he was on, Aden's ability to hit from anywhere on the court made him a difficult matchup. Alas, the JC transfer was tough to watch when he was struggling, since his shot selection was largely the same either way. Still, Aden deserved a better fate than seeing his college career end with a torn ACL suffered last month at Arizona.

Charlie Enquist - Enquist and Lodwick are both fifth-year seniors who started their WSU careers redshirting as part of the team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2007-08. It took Enquist until his final season to get meaningful action, and he responded by making 63.8 percent of his two-pointers and proving the Cougars' best rebounder.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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