If I was the selection committee of college basketball road trips I’d give the Pac-12 the number one overall seed and then anoint them the champion and let everyone else battle it out. How many other conferences offer Gameday worthy basketball and Olympic worthy skiing in the same weekend? The Pac-12 is a destination. Good weekend.
Leader in the Clubhouse: Just as UCLA was creeping into things and Colorado had rattled off four in a row and ASU knocked Arizona seemingly down a peg, the Wildcats went ahead and flexed everything, destroyed Colorado by 27 on the road and shot 60% in doing such (the highest FG% allowed by CU since 12/22/2010). Their defense was its standard great self, limiting the Buffs to 32% shooting. Colorado didn’t garner a FG for the game’s first 10:07. Meanwhile, UCLA lost at Stanford and ASU won nothing and Colorado was on the wrong end of red Saturday night. But this section is less about others and all about the Wildcats. There are but two weekends remaining and they’ve built themselves a two game lead and could clinch this week. The team’s first goal of the season has been to win a Pac-12 regular season title and sweeping the Ski Schools was a huge step in moving towards that goal. And that’s just the numbers of it. Because those other teams were sneaking into the conversation and because it looked as if the Wildcats were reeling. After beating Utah in overtime on Wednesday, Sean Miller felt that just getting the win would be good for his team’s psyche. Then Saturday night happened and it was as if the Wildcats were reminding everyone exactly who they were: the best team in the country.
Biggest Loser: I’ll struggle to note that ASU was the biggest loser because winning on the road is a very difficult task. Last week we noted Stanford was our BL but it wasn’t really a fitting title for them. This section, however, is beginning to take the form of a power ranking where I’m not soon to rain on a cellar dweller but rather note the team that did the least to A) Impress us, B) Improve their NCAA tournament chances. If we’re taking that approach to dolling out this recognition, ASU would seem to fit the bill. Their three headed monster (Bachynski, Marshall, and Carson) combined to shoot 27% for the weekend (17-62). That’s not a recipe for dancing. Moving forward, expect to hear a lot of talk about that Arizona win when you hear about the Devils’ resume.
What we Learned: We certainly confirmed once again that winning on the road is difficult but we’d learned that a long time ago. So for the second week in a row I’m struggling to realize what it is we might’ve learned we’re 8 weeks into the conference season and nearly four months into the whole damn thing. It’s hard to recognize any new truths. But then, this morning, I saw this tweet and I realized we did have something to learn:
Larry K and his staff are doing a whale of a job with these guys, getting them ready to win after the heartbreaker is good coaching.
— GO UTES!! (@UtahPigBus) February 24, 2014
Utah has sustained heartbreaker after heartbreaker. The luck thing (again) but I keep expecting to see this team finally fold. They give Arizona everything they can and more – are a missed free throw away from knocking them off – yet come up short. In some regards it would be excusable for them to collapse. At any moment. They don’t and they haven’t and Larry K has a lot to do with that. After barely eclipsing 50 regulation points on Wednesday the Utes quickly dispelled any semblance of a let down and double up ASU, 51-26, in the first half. That’s an impressive level of maturity, discipline, and focus befit a team possibly capable of a Pac-12 tournament run:
Larry Krystkowiak called his shot in tonight’s post game press conference. He thinks Utah will win the Pac-12 Tournament next month. #Utes
— John Coon (@johncoonsports) February 24, 2014
But I’ve also got to make note of this so that it’s on the record: Oregon. That might be all I have to say about that but the Ducks are looming in the 35-45 RPI range (sweet bubble) and still have games against UCLA, AZ, and ASU remaining. They are the winners of three straight and Mike Moser scored 41 points this weekend. So what I’m saying is that I’m just saying: Oregon. Also, Stanford. Third in the conference, winners of three straight, and playing like the group of seniors that realizes they’re seniors. That said, should the Cardinal finish third in the conference with a sound 12-6 record, is Chasson Randle (18/4/2) a POY candidate?
In Defense of: I need an excuse to mention TJ McConnell’s weekend. Because so often, as the calendar turns to this time of year and the games turn to CBS, the importance of guard play gets magnified. They have the ball most regularly and there’s a reason TO% is a part of the Four Factors. Now allow me to show you what TJ did this weekend in a pair of critical road games with his team seemingly in a tailspin and the conference’s top spot on the line:
20 points, 16 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 wins
His running mate, Nick Johnson, also added 35 points on the weekend but McConnell’s play – I mean ZERO turnovers – was the stuff of special. It’s long been said what a critical piece he is to the Arizona puzzle and this weekend may have been the greatest example of just that.
Also, quick defense of UCLA. They stomped all over Cal on Wednesday and it was equally as impressive as Arizona’s win at Colorado. Haas was loud and ready for that game and the Bruins did as they pleased from wire-to-wire. They lost on Saturday but such is travel. UCLA is still a very good, very scary team.
The YouTuber: Oldie but a goodie and if you haven’t ever seen it, you’re welcome: