This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com, the blog of podcaster extraordinaire and face of KVOA-TV sports, Ryan Recker.
If you need a metaphor for this year’s Pac-12, I present to you Chip Kelly.
Seriously though, if you’re a fan and you’ve been paying attention, nothing that happens in this conference should surprise you anymore. By that logic, things are following suit and by that logic we’re being treated to a pretty good Pac-12 season. While the basketball hasn’t been the prettiest, this weekend’s slate lived up to the billing of “moving day” in that there were some phenomenal games: AZ-CU, Cal-UW, UCLA-OSU, WSU-Cal.
But if Saturday was indeed “moving day” then we would have awoke Sunday with some clarity on league leadership and not had six teams within a game-and-a-half of first place. And who knows, maybe Kyle Williams wouldn’t have had to relive the 2009 Territorial Cup (joking aside, read this on Williams. Sports!).
Keep watching as this week the Pac-12 will make a rare appearance on the worldwide leader.
Leader in the Clubhouse: I seriously contemplated just filling this section with a single question mark. But I didn’t so I’m going to say it: Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 right now. Sure, Cal is the most complete team but the loss of Richard Solomon, while it didn’t effect them (THURMANATOR!) against UW, his absence was felt against a much lesser Washington State squad. So Oregon it is. Sure they’ve lost to Cal but Cal’s pretty good. You know who isn’t that good? Oregon State and Washington State, the two teams the Golden Bears have fallen to. In doing a quick resume scan we note that Oregon’s five losses have come against teams that rank, on average, 43rd in KenPom’s ratings (the worst of which was UW). Cal’s five losses have come against an average rating of 50th (worst being WSU). And the Ducks have been winning on the road, always a sexy attribute in the eyes of the selection committee. But maybe resume’s are a moot point for this conference? In this week’s ESPN bracketology, the Ducks are excluded in lieu of Stanford, and Cal is a nine seed. In Rush the Court’s bracketology, only Cal is making the tournament. Look, Cal is the best representative but they have holes and as of right now, Oregon is playing the best and has the most favorable stretch of games (OSU followed by the Ski Trip). Plus they have got to leverage some of the Kelly returning excitement.
Game of the Weekend: I mean, if last week I’m going to pick Cal @ UW as the Game of the Weekend and it turns into a 69-66 thriller in which the Huskies had a drawn up shot to tie it as time expired, then I’m obviously going to re-point out that I was right. Cal lived up to their hype as the top team in this conference (at least until Saturday rolled around) and led throughout much of this contest. Abdul Gaddy reemerged in CJ Wilcox’s absence – a good sign for the now shorthanded Huskies – and Aziz N’Diaye took advantage of the undersized Bears. Alas, they didn’t get the W and Cal did. The Bears however needed a huge performance from walk-on Robert Thurman. The junior forward scored 16 points and grabbed 7 boards in a career high 21-minutes en route to occupying Jeff Goodman’s twitter avatar. If the Bears need the Thurmanator to play like that to remain the conference favorites, I’m not loving their chances. And if the Huskies can’t beat the Solomon-less Bears at home, I’m not loving their chances. But this isn’t a prediction section it’s a recap section and it was a helluva game that very few got to see on TV.
The Big Loser: UCLA. They were swept at the Oregon schools for the first time since 2004 and looked meek in doing it. But calling the Bruins this weekend’s biggest loser pertains to far more than bounce passes and jumpers. The sweep got BruinNation fired up (these guys spit fire) to the point that they laid out a succession plan for Ben Howland. Then, in a poll of their readers, 45% felt Howland has not earned the right to remain head coach. What’s worse is that even the reportedly mild-mannered and team first, Anthony Stover, is frustrated with Howland. The under-used center tweeted an article calling for him to receive more playing time (sorry I couldn’t find the link). It’s been discussed quite a bit how much this program has struggled and perhaps this weekend was the straw to break the camel’s back. Against Oregon, they were up thirteen at the half and playing well. In the second half, the Ducks tied the game up in less than five minutes and then won it down the stretch. It’s indeed a sorry state of affairs in Westwood/Watts/Anaheim and possibly only getting worse. I’d also like to give a shout out to ASU in this section as they lost to Utah by 21 and produced both Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff (2009 MBA program graduate).
What We Learned: Well if Faisal Aden is making shots then that WSU team ain’t too bad. The senior guard blew up for 57 points on the weekend and shot 65% in doing such. He also fired up a Jared Cunningham-esque 20 FTs, connecting on 19 of them (Cunningham has shot the second most FTs in the nation). He’ll no doubt be named the POW as the Cougars swept the Bay schools. I unfortunately don’t think we learned a ton this weekend outside of the fact that Richard Solomon’s absence is going to hurt the Bears. Here’s a few bulleted thoughts:
- Arizona so glaringly has no go-to player that they couldn’t settle on anyone to take the final shot Saturday at Colorado. They dribbled out the final thirty seconds before air balling a desperation three. Having used their final time out with more than two-minutes remaining, Sean Miller was unable to draw up a play the Wildcats so painfully needed.
- Stanford may play a very tough, extended defense, but that doesn’t necessarily translate on the offensive end. They averaged just 66 ppg this weekend and are relying heavily on the three pointer – a shot they’ve taken more often than any other Pac-12 team and made at the fourth worst rate 34%.
- Colorado runs a staunch defense and has a legit shot to win this thing. They’ll host the Bay schools and their remaining toughest road swing is to Oregon. They still have to play at UCLA (worth reporting?) and at Arizona but with Carlon Brown filling it up, the Buffs have to like their chances.
- Harper Kamp did not step up in Richard Solomon’s absence (see the aforementioned Robert Thurman). He averaged 10/3 for the weekend. Decent, but I maintain that Monty and Crew will need more from the AZ native if they’re going to make a big run at this.
Early Week Youtuber: Forever we’ve heard about how soft Pac-12 officials are. That there’s no bruising out here on the West Coast and fouls thirty-five feet from the basket are as abundant as gold circa 1949 . Well he may not be particularly hard, but check out this zebra: