I had a joke all lined up. I subtle jab to get our review going and remind everyone it’s just sports. But then Spencer Dinwiddie’s knee moved in a manner that would break his heart – and ours – and I didn’t feel like joking anymore. Because on the tail end of that bench, in Spencer’s red eyes, was a tragic reminder of why this is our favorite game. Sure basketball is grand but the collegiate version calls to us because we know what we have is brief – four years at best – and then it’s over. On to the next crop of kids wearing familiar colors and left to tell tales of the old days with delusions of grandeur. So when that brevity is cut further short by the body’s failures – sudden and unforgiving – it sucks. We selfishly lose out on the joy of watching our team be the best version of itself in their tiny window for success in that iteration. And then there’s the kid. The one who’d worked his ass off to get into the school, to get into the lineup, to get into the lore of this sport. The one with a mom. Maybe it is just sports but that’s not what breaks your heart about Dinwiddie’s tumble. It’s not that we won’t see him jump, pass, or shoot. It’s that he doesn’t get to.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Arizona remains the number one team in the nation and unblemished on their record. They are the definitive leader. But let’s talk about someone else this week namely the California Golden Bears. Here’s a team everyone except Doug Gottlieb has slept on and perhaps rightfully so. They then lose Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow heading into conference play where their first three games are on the road. So naturally they win all three of them. They are tres-and-oh and Justin Cobbs is the man. He’s scoring 19.3 conference points per game, grabbing 4.6 conference boards, and assisting on 8.3 conference baskets for his teammates. And one of those teammates is Richard Solomon who is playing like a man possessed by his seniority. This is his last hurrah and so he’s grabbing all of the rebounds (8th best DR%) and making all of the baskets (56.2% eFG up from 48.1% last year). In case basketball is new to you, when you have a point guard and a center playing well, you have a recipe for success. And Mike Montgomery has a degree from Hogwarts.
Biggest Loser: You can’t drop home games. I mean you can, it’s competition and so anything can happen but if you’re trying to win things like the conference you can’t lose at home. And winning on the road is really important because it’s really hard. Those red letters on the left link to an article I wrote about this very subject. We judge teams based on where they win or lose. I’m judging Oregon. They have not defended their homecourt or anyone for that matter. The points per possession they’ve given up in conference: .89, 1.28, 1.19, 1.21. They have little problems getting the buckets (7th best offense per ORtg) but if they’re going to be taken seriously on a national if not conference level, they’re going to have to start getting some stops.
What We Learned: Well not a whole lot more about Stanford who split their Oregon trip the way few teams will (lose in Corvallis, win in Eugene). Of course if this team’s season long improvement play (what they were going to do differently this year vs. last as told to me by Johnny Dawkins) was to think about the year differently, I’m curious what’s on their mind. They’ve started conference play 1-2 for the second straight year and have almost an identical 15 game record as last season (10-5 now vs. 9-6 then). Not so different as their ORtg and DRtg are also almost identical to the past, too. They’d also mentioned being mentally tougher (part of thinking differently) and thus winning close games. Well that’s kinda working as they squeaked out wins by 2 points at each of UConn and Oregon. Maybe we start a new segment in here that’s just called WHAT DOES THE STANFORD SAY? and then I just write or link to whatever I want and it’s wildly unpredictable and completely upsetting but you’re attracted to that instability by some unintelligible force that keeps telling you that they’ll change. Did I just describe my ex-girlfriend?
In Defense Of: I’ve been all over Utah lately and how interesting what they’re doing has been. What have they done? Well lost 3 of 4 conference games. That doesn’t sound all that interesting but perhaps lost amongst the excitement of their 11-1 start and their thrilling loss to Oregon is that the Utes never really were there. That’s to see, I wasn’t annointing them title contenders or March dancers but rather noting their marked improvement, their progress and the promise of what could be. They’re definitively not there yet. But like previously noted, winning on the road is difficult. Utah took to Oregon and left with two black eyes. But their eyes are blackened because they were in a fight, not because they got their asses whooped. They’ve now lost by a combined seven points and have held a second half lead in every one of their conference games. There’s a measurement on KenPom that looks at luck because sometimes you can’t win them all. I wrote about it with regards to Utah last year. Basically, the Utes are the 345th unluckiest team in the nation right now (see: Dotson, Damyean). They’re 1-3 but that doesn’t yet mean they’re bad. Utes, defended.
The YouTuber: Have you ever seen so much in 82 seconds?