Happy President’s Day. Or, as it’s also graciously known, Happy Last-Paid-Holiday-Until-May.
If where you live was anything like San Francisco this weekend, it was hard for you to sit inside and watch hoops. If you did, however, you were treated to quite a grouping of Pac-12 games (more on that later). Let’s first mention what Utah does to this conference right now. Colorado, who sits alone in third place, was been rendered completely irrelevant this weekend because they had to play in SLC. The Buffs are legitimate contenders right now with a chance to knock off Cal at home this week and could find their way into second place if not first heading into the final weekend. First Place. No one has said a peep because they had to play Utah. Sigh.
But despite the atrocity that is the bottom of this conference, I think we’re starting to see that there are a few teams (namely five) I wouldn’t want to play on a neutral court in a big tournament with Clark Kellogg sitting sideline. And because I wouldn’t want to play them, that means someone should have to play them. Choose wisely committee.
The weekend of close games.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Dare we acknowledge some separation here? Cal and Washington sit atop the league holding a 1.5 game lead with just three to play. The remaining schedule favors Washington (vs RPIs 179, 230, 120) as Cal battles the daunting RPI gauntlet of 272, 73, and 105. But let’s get real for a hot second and call a spade a spade. If either of these schools is to win the conference and expect to dance (Cal is in) then they better sweep. No questions. So assuming they both do such, I believe Cal wins with a head-to-head tiebreaker but who’s the better team? Rather, who’s the more frightening? As tough as Cal is and veteran as they may be, there’s no part of me that would want to play Washington. Terrence Ross is as smooth as they get and Tony Wroten can get to the rim easier than three halter tops into XS. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on Jorge as the conference POY but I’m not buying it. I’m giving it to Wroten or DeVoe Joesph before that leader of a Cal point guard. Alas, I think the Pac is in good hands with these two teams comfortably atop the conference and their improved play behooves my three-bid prediction so long as Arizona and/or Oregon closes strong (read: doesn’t lose) and plays well at Staples.
Game of the Weekend: One week removed from a snoozefest of hoops, we were treated to quite the slate of games. Dismissing the two worst games of the weekend as determined by margin of victory – Cal over OSU by 14, WSU over ASU by 22 – in the remaining eight games, the victorious squad won by an average of 5 points. That’s ridiculous when you consider heading into the weekend we were again faced with the opportunity for some insane multi-team tie. While we may have discovered our true leaders, the fact remains that the competitive teams in this league are no easy out and will not roll over for anyone. Hell, even Utah’s stuck around in their last two against Arizona and Utah. My message to the tournament committee is such: if you want to look good, pick that third Pac-12 team. It’s a better choice than Iowa State, Middle Tennessee, or Central Florida and will make for a more entertaining field of 68. All of that tangentially said, the GotW was Thursday’s Oregon-Cal game that came down to the final possessions. It was pretty close to make-or-break for the Ducks but they battled their way through the Bay (split) and certainly made some believers. Not to mention DeVoe Joseph’s stellar game at Cal, dropping 33 in the biggest game of their season. And, not to knock Jorge, but the Bears were carried by Justin Cobbs’ 28 pointer, compared to 2-7 for 7 points, 3 boards, 4 assists for Jorge while not slowing Joseph.
The Big Loser: A part of me wants to call Colorado the big loser this weekend as everyone else got plenty of air time and an opportunity to prove themselves while the Buffs traveled to oblivion. Boyle’s Boys left with an underwhelming win and for such, they are not the biggest loser as they sit alone in third place. The reality is that seven teams’ seasons are over and so the big losers – while they both still have an opportunity to dance – are Arizona and Oregon. Each had a chance to knock off the teams above them in the standings and both failed. Arizona teased themselves for 35 minutes before succumbing to bad shooting and the Ross and Wroten show while the Ducks couldn’t hold on in Haas. 10-5 is strikingly different than 11-4 and fifth place is far from third. Especially when you consider the layout of the Pac-12 tournament and how the top-4 teams get a first round bye. I believe the ‘Cats have a better chance to dance but Oregon is not out of it. There’s just going to have to be a lot of brooming.
What We Learned: Nothing about the POY race. The list includes Brock Motum, Jorge Gutierrez, Jared Cunningham, DeVoe Joseph, and Tony Wroten. An argument for each can be made. An argument against, as well. Can you give it to a guy on a sub .500 squad? A guy who leads his team in no statistical category? A turnover machine? So here’s what I’m curious about: the rules. It’s an award given out by coaches vote and I want to know what the criteria is for these post-season awards which are ultimately meaningless but a glorious talking point. If I were a Cal homer, I’d be all over the Jorge for POY campaign. He’s a four-year grinder and the quintessential player you want on your team because everyone else hates him. He’s terrific at that. He’s not going to wow you with stats but when push come to shove (often literally for the fiery kid) he’s a winner. But is that how the award is defined? If it’s an MVP deal, then yeah, maybe. If it’s a best player thing, hello Brock. That dude has destroyed the stat sheet and seems to be the least guardable Pac-12 player. But his team sucks. So does Jared Cunningham’s. DeVoe Joseph can fill it up but has he done much else beyond that? Enough I’d argue. So while I don’t have a vote, I do have an opinion. DeVoe for POY barring a monumental Duck fart.
Early Week YouTuber: In honor of our Presidents: