Everything really isn’t awesome. I hate leading each week with what a bummer of a collective we follow but – aside from Oregon – the collective Pac-12 bubble made few strides this week. The NCAA tournament is like a healthy cell and the Pac-12 has three viral proteins evolving – unsuccessfully – to permeate it’s strong cellular membrane. What? I’ve been staring at the Cal slot on this power ranking for a day-and-a-half. All I can conjure is I think Dwight Tarwater has a producer credit on the Lego movie.
If I’m ever given the opportunity to accept an award with a microphone and an audience, may I please have the charisma, confidence and composure to pull off a “hashtag suck it.” Bravo, Cate Blanchett. Anyhow, we’ve got one of twelve seeds locked up for Vegas and I’m getting the itch to go. Is there a chance we get the Hollywood elite to pass the hat for PacHoops?
Leader in the Clubhouse: A few teams made some nice statements with regards to the big tournament and seeding for the littler tournament but the Arizona Wildcats became the 2014 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Champions. It is the school’s twenty-sixth conference championship and the fist of three nets the team set out to cut. They’ve also sealed the conference title in sizzling hot fashion. The points per possession differentials across their last three games: .19, .41, .41. They’re destroying people as their defense is the best in the country and they’ve rediscovered their athletic ways on the break. In their last three games, the Wildcats have taken 25.5% of their shots in transition. Their season average has been 21.1% (171st in the country). We wondered how this team would adjust to life without Brandon Ashley and there you have it. Faster, similarly defensive, and hotter than a pistol in the game’s most important month.
Now with regards to how this section has played out through other portions of the season, I feel it necessary to note that Oregon achieved a road sweep this weekend. I don’t care, not in the least, that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams didn’t play. Oregon needs to stockpile wins at a point in the year when those opportunities are becoming sparse. Additionally, after a tough ski trip, the Sun Devils bounced back and destroyed the Bay schools. Big weekend for them to get back on track.
Biggest Loser: I was tuned into both the Oscar’s and the UCLA-OSU game because who isn’t into drama? I was loosely preparing to anoint the Bruins the biggest loser should they absorb a home sweep. Alas, that was never the case so this week’s biggest loser is, right here in my backyard…THE BAY AREA SCHOOLS! Sure winning on the road is tough but neither team even bothered to show up. They were collectively outscored by 71 points, an average 17.8 points. The Arizona schools shot 50.2% from the field this weekend which – for those of you short on math – means they made more shots than they missed. With both Stanford and Cal looking to bolster their resumes, they didn’t.
What We Learned: I already mentioned it – Arizona’s transition offense – but let’s re-discuss this. After Ashley went down and the Wildcats dropped two of four and nearly another pair to Oregon and Utah, they seemed to be the dead elite walking. And then something clicked and they showed us all just how good they can be again and it looks like this:
In Defense Of: Steve Alford’s temper
Steve Alford said he was so angry with UCLA’s first-half effort, he shed his jacket in the locker room. Didn’t throw it. Laid it on a chair.
— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) March 3, 2014
The YouTuber: I. Hate. L. G.
It wasn’t the most exciting weekend of Pac-12 hoops. We knew there wasn’t much by way of sexy matchups but this time of year has a way of magnifying even the most nominal of moments. And so when the Beavers took Cal to wire, we watched. And when Washington took it to the Devils, we stared. And when Justin Cobbs stepped back, we awed. And when Jennifer Lawrence slipped, I dove at my television to catch her fall. Alas, things are starting to take shape in this thing we call “title chase” even if that shape is a goddamn mutilated Play Doh ball.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Arizona swept the weekend while Oregon wore a home loss but I’m still picking the Ducks here as they avenged that shellacking in Palo Alto. So much has been made of the absence of Artis but I’ll say that the collective parts that remain in his absence made quite an impression against a talented albeit quitting Cardinal crew. The Ducks’ impressive win over Stanford was an assertion of dominance as the sole holders of their destiny. With the easiest remaining schedule amongst title contenders, it’s impossible to consider anyone else the conference’s leader. But it’s close.
Biggest Loser: There once was an under achieving team from Tempe that won its way to 20 games against less-than-impressive talent but it was 20 nonetheless. And as they approached selection Sunday, they discovered that maybe they’re fighting an uphill battle as they did themselves no favors in losing, at home, to the 76th RPI rated Washington Huskies. In general, not an abysmal loss; but with the calendar approaching March, we find ourselves in an excuse-less vacuum of do-or-die. The Devils, with the schedule they enlisted, have put themselves in position to win their way into the Dance. The unfortunate part is they didn’t win this Saturday – their final home game of the year – which may have cost themselves a chance to dance.
What We Learned: It was just brought to my attention that Colorado can finish anywhere from second to ninth in the conference which is to say that perhaps we learned absolutely nothing from this weekend aside from the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is equal parts talented and beautiful and that Craig Robinson’s sister awkwardly hangs out with tuxedo-ed service people. So with nothing still little to report by way of solid findings, one thing remains certain: You need a ticket to Vegas. See you there.
The YouTuber: It’s going to start happening at a faster rate…
Awhile back we examined how the relevant (read: not ASU, USC, or Utah) Pac-12 teams paralleled the Oscar Nominees for Best Picture. Last night, The Artist, won the award.
This was the film that I felt most closely paralleled the Oregon State Beavers and so we can now conclude that A) these analogies were not based on odds of winning, and B) in revisiting that post, Brad’s rant on War Horse was nothing short of remarkable. However, with things still highly questionable regarding the POY race, could The Artist’s Jean Dujardin’s claiming of the Best Actor award be foreboding for Jared Cunningham?
The weekend of yawnable must-wins turned into something of an edge-of-your-seater as teams began realizing that this thing is really coming down to the wire. That, or the teams out of the race were pissed off enough to finally do something about their abysmal seasons. Your pick, there were some doozies.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Washington stands alone in first place so this one’s undebatable. They overcame a 13-point defect in the second half of their road Apple Cup victory and some questionable coach from Ken Bone, but – and this has been a theme of late – they won. That’s all that matters this time of year, just ask Cal. The Huskies have themselves poised to win the school’s twentieth regular season crown – their second since 1985 – but not without some work to do. The leaders head to Los Angeles to tackle a UCLA team that – while closing a mess of a season – had the Huskies all but beat until Terrence Ross took over the final few minutes. And this time it’ll be on the ever challenging road, a place Romar etc. have historically struggled to win the big ones.
Game of the Weekend: There were some tight ball games this weekend. Saturday and Sunday’s games had an average margin of victory of four points. Tightballgamesindeed. Good stuff for a whole bunch of games with little surface intrigue but heavy tournament and title implications. In our Preview, we said the GotW would be Colorado and California in a title tilt; a huge game for the Buffs in which they could “catapult themselves into contention for a conference title.” Well, that game was indeed huge for the Buffs and they came out guns blazing and won big. But, as they say, “when you assume you make and ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me'” so we must also revisit the fact that I wrote, “Assuming Colorado beats Stanford tonight.” An ass I am. Getting back to what was arguably the best game of the weekend from an entertainment standpoint, I’m giving that nod to the oldest rivalry in college sports: The Civil War. In a must wins for the Ducks, Garret Sim scored a career high 25 points as Oregon won on the road by just one. Oregon State used a late rally to cut the Duck lead to three when they had the ball and 9 ticks remaining. They got a good look at a three that resulted in a tip-dunk and subsequent one-point loss. My favorite for POY, DeVoe Joseph, added sixteen points and is averaging 17.1 points per conference game (Jorge: 13.3 ppCg, Ross: 15.3 ppCg, Wroten: 16.7 ppCg).
The Big Loser: Easy. The Stanford Cardinal lost to the Utah Utes of 260 RPI, 301 KenPom, and 296 Sagarin-lore. The worst team amongst the BCS conferences beat Stanford. Doesn’t matter to me that they handled Colorado. You don’t lose to teams that are that bad. You just cannot. I’m struggling with words, to make an analogy so I give you this:
What We Learned: The teams with a chance to dance are getting drum tight. As I said previously, UW needed to overcome a 13-point defect, Cal got straight up beat, Arizona and Oregon won despite doing everything they could to do otherwise, and Colorado was rolled at home. Loosen up fellas! You’ll play better. So let’s take a look at what’s left to go for each of the “contenders,” or teams with a fighting chance of finishing in the top-4.
- Washington, 13-3: The Huskies will travel to LA and have already guaranteed themselves a top-4 finish. Assuming (yeah, I said it again!) they beat USC, they’re guaranteed a top-2 finish. In short, UW is sitting pretty with a great opportunity to be champs. Right??
- California, 13-4: What happened in Boulder? Anyhow, it happened and Cal likely cost themselves a conference title. Now they’ll head south to close in The Big Game at Stanford. And who knows what’s going on in with that Dawkins squad? But this is about Monty’s veteran-ish squad with dwindling careers in a rivalry game. I like Cal’s chances, but at this point it’s to finish in second. They do hold the tie-breaker over Washington, however.
- Arizona, 12-5: One to play and it’s in Tempe against the lowly Sun Devils. A win and the Wildcats are guaranteed a fourth-place-or-better finish and, in all likelihood, are dancing. If that doesn’t scream “trap game” I don’t know what does.
- Oregon/Colorado, 11-5: I’ve lumped these two together because they’ll have the opportunity to control their respective fates head-to-head Thursday night (SPOILER: I will be calling this the Week 10 GotW). Last time these two faced off, it came down to the wire as Nate Tomlinson won it with a free throw in the final seconds. Will Oregon get sweet revenge? Or will the Buffs get that coveted first (big) road victory in the nick of time? Then of course there’s still the Saturday games. No asses here.
Early Week YouTuber: As the season is quickly coming to a close, we always wonder what it would be like if just a few things were different. What if just one more shot had fallen for Arizona against Colorado, Oregon, or Washington? What if Cal doesn’t drop the ball against OSU and WSU? Or Colorado closes out Cal in Berkeley? These events didn’t happen and this isn’t what a bar scene usually looks like. But what if?
Today the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.
Like the Pac-12, it hasn’t been the best year for film and the nominations demonstrate this much. No single movie has swept us off our feet, excited us to conversation, pushed us to the floor with laughter, or changed our thinking. Just as no team has wowed us on the basketball court, no motion picture will escape 2011 an epic (the Harry Potter series did end, though).
But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been entertained. It doesn’t mean we don’t watch or enjoy ourselves or have our emotions tugged at. Whether we’re fans or theatergoers, we appreciate the experience and the event of it all.
I have not seen all nine of the Best Picture nominees (5-of-9), but it is a goal of mine to do such. I have, however, watched a lot of Pac-12 hoops and I will now attempt to briefly analogize the Oscar nominees to Pac-12 contenders.
- “The Artist” – While the Oregon State Beavers kicked their season off loud, they find themselves in conference play a lot like this film: unable to speak. In this silent film, the protagonist (Craig Robinson), amidst fears he’ll lose his acting job with the nearing arrival of talking pictures, clings to a young up-comer (Jared Cunningham) to carry him through.
- “The Descendants” – This is the story of a supposed to be wealthy, happy, and successful man living in paradise (Hawaii). We quickly learn that looks can be deceiving and at the end of the day, life is what we make it. The Washington Huskies are arguably the most talented Pac-12 team but everything is not well in Seattle. They may have a roster with Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, but that alone won’t lead to success or happiness.
- “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” – A tale of discovery amidst loss, the Oregon Ducks lost two supposedly vital cogs (Barron, Brown) but have found their way to the top of the conference standings. In the movie, our young protagonist loses his father in the 9/11 attacks, enduring pain en route to self-discovery.
- “The Help” – This is a tale of hard work, courage and defying the establishment. While the “help” of this small Mississippi town were supposed to shut up and do their jobs, they conspired to tell their stories, rise up and have their voices heard. As the newcomer Colorado Buffaloes were picked to finish eleventh in the conference, they too have worked hard and asserted themselves as equals amongst the conference elite.
- “Hugo” – An orphaned boy finds himself adventuring through Paris, clinging to the past left to him by his late-father. The Washington State Cougars were orphaned by their best player, Klay Thompson, when he bolted early to the NBA. Like Hugo, the Cougars were left a broken memory (Hugo: automaton, WSU: Faisal Aden) of their former lead. Both protagonists seek how to get their bequeathed goods to work.
- “Midnight in Paris“- A movie that encourages us to appreciate the present and not cling to the past, longing for a better time. Woody Allen directs a beautiful movie and tells a wonderful story, teaching a lesson the Arizona Wildcats could learn: it is best to recognize that which you immediately have, while not letting the past stifle your growth.
- “Moneyball” – Stoic, straightforward, and raw, this movie tells the less than exciting but powerful story of the Oakland A’s. Like Johnny Dawkins and his Stanford Cardinal, there’s little substance or flash to the movie but the most is made of what there is. Making the best of the least available worked for the A’s and now the Cardinal. Also an obvious Bay Area parallel.
- “The Tree of Life” – This movie received big hype with its big stars and artsy overtones but then obtusely disappointed. It’s essentially a convoluted self-indulgence for writer/director Terrence Malick. Like the UCLA Bruins, it’s ultimately much ado about nothing and a humungous let down. No synopsis necessary.
- “War Horse” – California Golden Bears. Analogy impossible, but read on.
As research for this post I had to read some synopses of these films. Like I said, I’ve seen five of the nominees and really enjoyed them, save “The Tree of Life” which I thought was terrible. The most memorable part of that viewing experience was when the movie stopped about two-thirds of the way through. Because the movie was so convoluted I sincerely thought it was the ending. Alas, it was not and the old, grumpy usher entered the theater to see what had happened. When a patron asked what the deal was, the elderly usher quietly replied, “Oh shit,” before slinking back to the projection room. The movie resumed and we all got free ticket vouchers. The only good thing to come of that film.
But I’ve digressed. Back to my research.
I was familiar with most of the stories and, quite favorably, the movies paralleled the Pac-12. Until I got to number nine, “War Horse.” I hadn’t the slightest clue what the movie was about and gained no perspective from the IMDB summary. So, I went to gchat and asked Brad who had seen it and had this to say:
Brad: drunkard dad goes to market to buy work horse for failing farm falling behind on rent to land lord
dad gets into bidding contest for a thoroughbred horse and pays too much for a fine horse they dont need
becomes strangely obsessed with the horse
it’s supposed to be heartwarming boy loves pet (like old yeller or something)
but the boy is too old for that, and it seems weird
what kind of boy loves a horse?
anyway, i digress
after horse nobly plows the field and saves the farmme: (this is hilarioius)Brad: the father is eventually forced to sell the horse to the army for the war effortWorld War 1where a calvary is still usedwell i guess the key to the story isat some point when the boy is training the horse at the outsethe develops a hand whistle to call the horsethat is supposed to be uniqueyou realize right away that after the horse gets lost in the warthe boy and hte horse will be reunited via this hand whistleand in fact, this is exactly what happensbut firstyou have to sit through a steven spielburg (sp?) of recycled cliche disney nonsensewhere you are following the story of a horse and his interactions with various persons affected by the warmost notably a young girl who also falls in love with the horseeventually the horse escapes the german bondage of halling massive artilleryand goes on some overly dramatic gallop across war torn trenches of world war oneonly to wind up stuck in barbed wire in the middle of no mans land (between the trenches)and foster a momentary peace between the german and british forces to set the horse freeit’s at that point the boy is blinded by mustard gasand then finds his horse via the handwhistlesomehow having fostered such a relationship with his horse that he knows him without being able to see himanyway, the blindness recedesand he goes home to a sunset/sappy ride home to his farmon the horseand embraces his fathermovie sucked