This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ, produces some great podcasts, knows Arizona sports inside-and-out, and votes for the Heisman.
Once again the home teams – for the most part – won for the locals and moved the Pac-12 season along at an unshocking pace. There was a fight but then a bunch of uncompetitive blowouts. So much for parody. Until of course next Thursday rolls around and once again anything can happen. Stay tuned to your local Root TV network.
Here is one thing to keep in mind as your squad battles along: the top four finishers in the conference receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. A small but potentially dance inducing fact in this lesser conference year. The weekend:
Leader in the Clubhouse: Sure, Cal and Stanford sit atop the conference at 5-1 each and Washington – despite seemingly no consistency – is 4-1. But this weekend may have proven that the Oregon Ducks are for real. Their sweep of the Arizona schools was the most impressive feat of the weekend, befitting the team du jour title. At 4-2, Dana Altman’s team has lost only to Washington and Cal and is about to host three straight, winnable games (the LA schools followed by OSU). If Devoe Joseph can continue piecing together his dark horse POY candidacy, Eugene could wind up playing host to both the football and basketball conference titles. And with toughness above talent likely the key to winning this talent thin conference, Dana’s Ducks may be on to something as the only team with three road victories. I won’t go so far as to call this group favorites, but they’re a far more intriguing team than the previous flavor of the week, Colorado, and certainly tougher than the road weary Washington Huskies. My advice? Don’t sleep on the Ducks.
Game of the Weekend: Two desperate teams – Arizona seeking its identity, OSU just a win – needed extra time and some restraints to figure things out. The game culminated in a shoving match after Kyle Fogg was lightly fouled by Jared Cunningham and Fogg felt obligated to let Cunningham know he had also made the basket. Beyond that, it was a thrilling Arizona victory; a game in which Brendon Lavender – a 10.6 minutes per game type player – needed to shoot 5-6 from three-point range for the Wildcats to even have a chance. It was the Beavers second straight OT game, this one following their four-OT loss to Stanford. OSU continues to be a mystery after entering conference play as an intriguing two-loss team. They now find themselves 1-5 with losses to ASU and WSU and as the only team to beat Cal (handily at that). Confounding indeed.
The Big Loser: As previously mentioned, winning the 2012 conference title is going to take some toughness. And by toughness I don’t mean shoving matches when you’ve already wrapped up the game. By toughness, I don’t mean finding yourself down 17 at home before you decide to play defense. So, who showed the least toughness this weekend? The Arizona Wildcats. Their melee showed glaring insecurities and their loss to Oregon showed gross passivism. Sean Miller’s group continues to play sans identity and it looks as if everyone’s waiting around for someone else to do something about it. Most telling of Arizona’s woes has been their reliance on the three ball. The Wildcats fired up 39 long balls this weekend and have shot the most in the conference and 89th most in the nation. For no better way to put it, that’s mid-major territory and not where Arizona wants to be. The Wildcats will need to answer some questions quickly as they head into a difficult three week stretch of games.
What we learned: This conference is starting to take shape. There’s an elite class (Cal, Stanford); an OK-I-see-you class (Washington, Oregon); a work-yet-to-do class (Arizona, UCLA, Colorado); a whose-season-can-we-ruin class (WSU, OSU); and then there’s ASU, USC, and Utah. While Oregon may have shown the most toughness, Washington isn’t going to fade away that fast and Terrence Ross isn’t about to forget how to hoop (30 and 14 this weekend). Cal won a game (home against Colorado) that they had almost no business winning but still managed to; it was championship stuff. Because much of the weekend followed suit, there weren’t necessarily amy outliers by which to make conclusions. Josh Smith didn’t have a particularly big game (6pts, 5rbs) but then again he didn’t need to. Tony Wroten still didn’t hit his free throws (7-13); Brock Motum remains a dark horse conference POY (17/2/2); and ASU got better with less (Trent Lockett left the game with an injury). It is worth mentioning that just because Colorado was blown out by Stanford, it is not an indication of the direction of their season. Their performance at Cal was sufficient to say this group is real and essentially legitimizes the ski schools as a trip not to be taken lightly.
Early Week YouTuber: OK, so there wasn’t much exciting going down on the court in the Cities of the Pac. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen elsewhere: