Well, well, well. If it isn’t conference play back and in our Thursday/Saturday faces. I enjoyed a grand chunk of Pac-12 hoops this weekend and while I’m still on the fence about these Wednesday games, I can totally get behind Sunday games and I definitively don’t miss FSN. Did any of you catch the Civil War game last night? The game itself was alright, the Ducks showed off some scoring depth and acumen, while Oregon State sorta confirmed they’re defenseless. Alas, the point being, I was inundated with VALUES.com ads (are those even advertisements? PSAs?) like this one and I’m pretty certain that I now have no interest in passing anything on to anyone. Did you watch the video yet? WHAT IS THAT?
Back to the hoops because by Friday morning, every game had been within five-points with under five to play and I wasn’t hungover. By Sunday night, nearly the same! Saturday’s games had a moderate ho hum about them but offered us a glimpse into a world where maybe the Utah Utes aren’t abysmal and maybe UCLA is just a really good team that had some growing pains.
Alas, solid first weekend of conference play, let’s head to the monitors to take a look at it (too soon?):
Leader in the Clubhouse: Based on their body of work, one has to consider the undefeated Wildcats here but seeing as how this is more of a week to week commentary, I have to say UCLA was the most fear striking team out there. If we’re to take Sean Miller’s word for it and believe Arizona is approaching the number one ranking in KenPom’s luck rankings (they’re 36th), then I’m not entirely sure I’m willing to call Arizona a leader after that weekend. Not to say they aren’t good or definitely the best team in the conference, but UCLA handling the Bay schools was most impressive to me. What makes me cringe however, and gives merit to the claims that Howland’s program is a joyless one, was the expressionless Bruin faces after each victory. They appeared robotic rolling thru handshakes which doesn’t really get me feeling one way or the other, just maybe that this team makes it way through this fascinating season with mechanical efficiency. Slice it however you will and I’m probably looking far too deep into far too little. Of course, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…
Game of the Weekend: That little tilt down in Tucson Thursday night sure was an interesting one. It was expected to be the biggest game of the first weekend on paper and lived up to the hype and would later have the sports media world abuzz. And this guy’s commentary. I’m not one for harping on officiating as it’s a difficult job, blah, blah, blah…and to blame the stripes over and over and over is without a doubt the biggest little brother move anyone can do. But man, that one sure appeared to be blown. Colorado was the benefactor of a last second officiating gaffe last year, this stuff happens. But the game itself was a tremendous display of defensive brilliance and effort by the Buffs who held Arizona’s big three of Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson, and Mark Lyons to just 2-18 shooting before the tone of the game switched and the Wildcats decided to make a comeback. That’s where we got to see Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons play like the vaunted seniors we expect them to be. They scored a combined 24 across regulation’s final nine minutes (that’s 17 more points than the team combined to score in the games first eleven minutes), and accounted for half of Arizona’s overtime output. That’s senior leadership and that’s how you do special things. The Wildcats escaped with another tight one that the Buffs just might be face-palming about later this season.
The Big Loser: The two biggest candidates here have got to be Colorado and Stanford as the only two-loss teams in the conference. I’d also consider throwing Washington State, USC and Oregon State’s names into the hat as they each now possess home losses. By my nature (grossly neurotic) decisions frighten me but I’m not inclined to call the Colorado Buffaloes losers this week. For a grand chunk of their time in McKale they were the better team and arguably had that one ripped out their hands. Their Tempe time was a little different and I really think ASU just beat them but if I’m Colorado, I have to think there are still enough positive takeaways to not be too down on this weekend. Also because Stanford kinda just got beat all weekend. They didn’t execute down the stretch against USC, a game they got 0/2/2 and 3 turnovers in just 15 minutes from Chasson Randle, and were just not nearly as good as UCLA. The Cardinal were a team I thought would be clicking a little better than they currently are. To be certain, they don’t appear to be a team all that pissed off for greatness.
What We Learned: I think this weekend went a long way in confirming the company line each coach has been pumping since August: The Conference is improved. Few if any have gone so far as to say the Pac is “good” but they can get behind “improved” which is basically saying that none of these teams historically suck again. A fact I think we are starting to see. Utah played two very tough games in Arizona and Jason Washburn and Jordan Loveridge appear to be the real deal. Arizona State took a couple shots from Colorado and, by games end, had flipped the defensive script on the Buffs and won the ball game. I have no resounding commentary on the Apple Cup rivalry other than it played out like a good rivalry game should and that those two (UW and WSU) aren’t going to be doing too much this season by way of getting the Pac considered “good.” But, on the whole, this is an improved conference.
Start of the Week YouTuber: All right, I’ll confess the following: 1) By posting a video surrounding the monitor mishap, I’m being a hypocrite and propagating an uncontrollable event from the past. But this video is great. 2) This is video is hosted by Vimeo and not YouTube. So sue me.