Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. His latest podcast is with ESPN 1490’s Jody Oehler, who makes a very fair criticism’s of Sean Miller. Check it out.

The unfortunate reality is the Pac-12 is gaining steam as a one bid league. Woof.

We head into hump weekend as we’re half way to the Staples Center and some sort of separation needs to occur. It just has to. Someone must assert their place atop this conference. It’ll happen? Right? And now I’m begging.

Allow me to spell out a feasible weekend scenario for you. Stanford beats Cal in Berkeley; OSU beats Oregon in Eugene; UW and Colorado split on the road (Arizona and LA, respectively); Arizona sweeps at home. It could occur, yeah? Two rivalry games in which anything can happen, road splits, home sweeps. Feasible.

That scenario would leave us with a six-way tie for first place. I bold and italicize that because I only have three  font options here and the third is strike-thru. There is no other way to demonstrate the absurdity of a six-way tie halfway through conference play.

Alas, the schedule.

TV Complaint: This week I’m going to dish some broadcast props. Colorado’s visit to USC will be shown on USCTrojans.com. For $5 you can watch the game or sign up for an extended plan and subsequently more games. This certainly works for a growing and excitable CU basketball community and no doubt for the entirety of Arrogant Nation. Not all of us necessarily have uber-dishes are exuberant cable packages, but we do have access to the interwebs and whatever it can broadcast. Thinking free-er picture, the worldwide leader is headed to Tucson. The doors of McKale will open at 6am PST as Jay, Rece, Digger, Hubert, and the College GameDay crew host their weekly show and game of the week. The Wildcats are putting on their second annual whiteout against UW aired on ESPN prime time. Any publicity is good publicity and the worldwide leader is amongst the most self-serving. For such, expect to hear a lot of great things said about some not-so-great Pac-12 teams in order to garner some interest in the prime time tip.

Game of the Weekend: Well if ESPN is going to call it theirs then I have to call it mine. The Washington Huskies travel to Tucson for the national broadcast, a battle of two teams that continue to search for their identities. UW may be the more talented group – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten can be filthy good – but Arizona is deeper. With the Wildcats returning to the friendly confines and a raucous crowd, freshman Nick Johnson will be looking to get back on track. In conference play, the pup is shooting 50% at home compared to a putrid 38% outside of the 520 and he seemingly disappeared inside of the Coors Center last Saturday. Of course the freshman to pay attention to is Tony Wroten. The Husky lefty can fill it up and undoubtedly plays a vital role in the Dawgs’ success but has an unfortunate knack for turning the ball over. His 78 turnovers are the eighth most in the nation. This is a terrific rivalry game and Arizona AD, Greg Byrne, has done a tremendous job in promoting it as such. While we can toss out the idea that both teams need this game to be taken seriously (no Pac-12 team received even a single vote in either poll), both teams need this win to take themselves seriously. Arizona is 4-3 without having beaten any of the top eight teams in the conference (pending tonight’s WSU game) and UW hasn’t A) won in Tucson since 2006 B) won much of anything outside of Seattle under Romar. If nothing else, like I said, UW-AZ is a terrific watch. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Game to Avoid: Maybe the best part about the aforementioned six-way tie scenario is that seven of this weekend’s ten games involve a “contender.” That leaves us Utah @ UCLA, WSU @ ASU, and Utah @ USC as the only meaningless ball games. I hate that this section is quickly becoming a rain-on-USC/ASU/Utah section but these are three of the worst teams in all of college basketball. That said, let’s not lose track of the truth that UCLA is mentioned here. Their 2011-12 woes are well documented and there’s no need to rehash. My latest Westwood/Anaheim/Watts concern is stemming from Ben Howland’s press conference. Read his quotes on Josh Smith (here and here). All I hear are excuses and for a kid who already struggles to get it together, Howland sounds like an enabler. I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that and for such I think we can finally stick a real fork in the Bruins’ season. Hosting the woeful Utes (despite coming off a blowout win) is not worth your time considering it wasn’t worth Smith’s time to get in shape.

Something to Prove: Stemming from that little UCLA rant I think it’s the Colorado Buffaloes who have the most to prove this weekend. I’m fascinated by this team and truly think they’re legit contenders. As such, the Buffs should be expected to sweep this weekend in Los Angeles. USC is awful and UCLA has a fork in their side making it arguably the easiest weekend for any of the “contenders.” But these are also only the third and fourth road games for Boyle’s Boys – a team that is just 2-5 when not playing at the Coors Center. I’m high on Oregon right now because they’ve been winning road games and for a conference whose home teams are 33-11, winning on the road becomes the un-equalizer. CU is playing as good as anyone at home, let’s see what they can do on the road. Vegas doesn’t think much of them as they’re just a half-point favorite tonight (at USC) and I can’t imagine they’ll be favored on Saturday. But Vegas, Shmegas. The trick is believing you’re good and I think Tad Boyle has Spencer DinWiddie and the rest of the Buffs believing.

Something to Lose: They’re not holding on to much but the Arizona Wildcats are hosting and really cannot afford a split. Their 4-3 record is nothing short of disappointing but, what’s worse, it’s starting to look fitting. If everyone else is winning at home, so too should the Wildcats if they want to win this up-for-grabs conference. As we’ve already put a fork in UCLA , a split or worse this weekend – while no one is technically ever out of this race – would probably take Arizona out of serious contention and nowhere near the bubble they’re lingering on in some discussions. But, because they are still on some bubbles, this weekend is huge for the Wildcats. It was in fact this very ESPN, whiteout, UW game last year that catapulted Derrick Williams into the national spotlight – perhaps costing Arizona his presence on this roster. The UW game is no doubt recognized as significant. But – like I just did – Arizona cannot overlook a suddenly sultry WSU Cougar team. Faisal Aden can’t miss – or is at least shooting FTs like he’s Derrick Williams – and Brock Motum can cause problems for that small AZ roster. I can’t imagine Ken Bone’s team would have a problem playing spoiler. Bear down or bow out.

Weekend YouTuber: I keep saying it along with everyone else: the Pac-12 is not good and if our six-way first place scenario plays out, well … oh man. It’s like the Pac-12 barely knows what it’s doing. It’s bad. But it’s not this bad:



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