I’m writing to you from a hotel room in Los Angeles while watching team ice skating and loving it. Normal? Not really, but such is the nature of global competition and the two weeks that is the Olympics. Isn’t it great? And competition, of course, is what we love to witness. It’s what transpired across southern Russia and Pac-12 arenas this weekend. The former saw Norway jumping out to a medals lead while the latter – dare I say – appeared to take some semblance of shape.
Leader in the Clubhouse: An argument could be made that we award this to the Arizona Wildcats who continue to play terrific defense while finding themselves offensively in life without Brandon. He was replaced by a freshman, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has filled in to the tune of 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists in his two starting games. Yes, we could award it to those Wildcats but I’d rather go, this time, with the Stanford Cardinal. These guys were lumped into our ‘Something to Prove’ category as one of the many 5-4s at the mid-way point. Yet amongst all those 5-4s, just the Cardinal and Beavers were about to embark on a three game road trip. That’s a steep task considering all we’ve discussed about the Pac-12 road and how it’s amongst the toughest in the nation. Well Johnny Dawkins’ group – or perhaps better said, Dwight Powell’s group – promptly destroyed Cal on their floor. It was a wire-to-wire dismantling and the Cardinal beat them in just about every facet of the game. For my money, it was the most impressive win of the week and one of only two road wins (UCLA beat USC in the Galen Center).
Biggest Loser: Those aforementioned five-and-fours? Only two of them got swept away this weekend and so I’m inclined to call Washington and Oregon State our biggest losers. They both dropped a pair of roadies while the Dawgs barely flirted with competitive. Like maybe glanced at her from across the bar. The Beavers at least took things to overtime in Tempe but I’m not inclined to break this section down by figuring out who lost more ceremoniously. I’m actually not inclined to call either UW or OSU our biggest loser. Both were overachieving at 5-4 and it was going to be asking a lot for either to escape the weekend with a win. The Oregon Ducks, however? Those guys have fallen into a free fall. They’re undoubtedly a talented team but they’re also a undisciplined. Wildly undisciplined and seem to have little idea as to what they’re trying to execute. They seem to personify all the fears about the inability of a composite of transfers to come together. Or, more succinctly from my man Doug Haller:
Oregon’s a mess.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) February 8, 2014
What We Learned: As noted in the opener, it really looks like things are starting to take shape amongst the Conference of Champions. We’ve but a handful of weeks remaining but for the first weekend in some time, things seemed to go according to plan. That’s of course taking into account that we were planning on Oregon continuing on this path. But in other places, home teams won and UCLA beat USC. Colorado and Arizona State swept home stands to find their respective ways out of the 5-4 log-jam-mess while Oregon State and Washington did the opposite. We could argue we didn’t really learn anything but rather just confirmed that the road is tough.
In Defense Of: I’m not really defending anyone here but really just shedding light on the fact that Jordan Bachynski set the career mark for Pac-12 blocks on Thursday. Congratulations to him as it’s quite an accomplishment. I mean,if you run through the names he’s passed, you list a complete list of NBA draft picks: Anthony Cook, Channing Frye, Taj Gibson, and Sam Clancy. I mean, Clancy was a Player of the Year winner.
The YouTuber: Two things about this, well, three: 1) I once suggested this song be played at a corporate presentation of our rebranding, 2) Dirty, 3) Keep an eye on Askia Booker at the bottom of the screen. So Ski.