Only twice before has Wayne Tinkle even competed against a KenPom Top-10 team. He lost those two games by an average of 35.5 points. And then Sunday happened and it was basically a lot of this all happening at once. Namely, Tinkle Time arrived and as crunch time hit, only one team was tinkling down its leg. Big win.
The biggest game out of the state of Oregon of course comes tonight. Begging the question as to which should be more discussed? Beavers or Ducks? In my estimation its a no brainer. It’s not really even a question except for this guy who needed to learn how to take screen grabs (check the browser search windows). G’luck Ducks – may you fair better than the Pac’s Middle Amoeba.
12) ARIZONA STATE
Having to start your conference slate with three straight road games is a really tough way to start. Losing all three is pretty excusable but also a very unfortunate way to “earn” the bottom of the Pac distinction. Nevertheless, someone’s got to wear it and with my Wildcat homer hat on, I’m not that upset it’s the Sun Devils. Worth noting, nearly gobbling up three straight double-doubles (24/12, 22/11, 10/8) to close 2014, Savon Goodman has struggled mightily in the New Year; just 4 points and 4 boards per contest.
Jordan McLaughlin returned to action just in time to remind us that he’s indeed a freshman. A valiant Trojan comeback was thwarted when he dribble a ball of his foot, allowing Stanford to depart with the narrowest of LA splits.
Jabari Bird’s triumphant return lasted just eight minutes. The game was relatively even to that point which was also the same point when Bird left the game with what appeared to be a cramp. Whatever it was, it’s been noted to not be related to his previously busted foot. But Bird or not, there are bigger issues for the Bears to be figuring out. Their offense has struggled in his absence but so too has their defense. It’s been a shell of what got them to 10-1.
Getting blown out by Utah isn’t the concern. The concern is surrounding the health of Xavier Johnson’s ankle a day after I thought he was the key to a Buff turnaround. He tweaked it and it’s unclear when he’s coming back. As for that Utah game – well there really isn’t much to say. Utah is the best team in this conference. Colorado was playing with a broken star (you can’t tell me that 3 points, 2 boards Josh Scott is 100% healthy) and then without the aforementioned Johnson. The game, subsequently, can be ignored and the Wednesday-to-Thursday rest period should be fully taken advantage of.
We’re all familiar with basketball’s four factors. But what often goes unspoken is basketball’s fifth factor which is really more of a rule: DON’T LOSE AT HOME TO YOUR ARCHRIVAL. Beyond dropping one to the fighting Ernies, that’s four straight for the Dawgs. What worse, it’s four straight to teams with an average KenPom ranking of 110. Where’s the D that was so central to the LoRo Revival?
7) WASHINGTON STATE
Is this too low? Because if the rule is to not lose to your archrival then the counter rule is to beat them with your new coach and let anything and everything he may more may not be doing on the recruiting trail or leading to that point in the season be excused. Both of our newest coaches in the Pac-12 got their signature wins this week. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and while Wayne’s was a little bigger in magnitude, Ernie’s is no less significant.
The Bruins got a great win over Stanford that they absolutely needed. They got Kevon Looney more involved (my vote for Player of the Week). No one needs to be judging Steve Alford. Bryce hit 6 of 11 threes and dished 13 assists. 11K people came to Pauley for the Cal game. So many good things for the Bruins yet this was my favorite UCLA related moment of the week:
Revenge. Last year, Jordan Bachynksi had a walk off block of a Joe Young layup to beat the Ducks. He had 9 blocks in that game. Well this weekend it was a different Jordan B (Bell) who got his block on, revengefully, for the Ducks. In knocking off the Devils, Bell swatted eight shots and delegated the Sun Devils to the bottom of the Pac. Overall, I thought it was a ho-hum weekend for the Ducks, kind of like their season. Except, of course, this came back.
This was supposed to be the week in which the Cardinal distinguished themselves as the leaders of the Middle Amoeba, perhaps members of our tourney lock group. So naturally they do something like put the conference’s third best free throw shooter (Chasson Randle, 89%) at the line with a chance to win only to watch him miss then lose. They tried to lose to USC until USC tried even harder. But road splits are to be appreciated, not chastised.
3) OREGON STATE
If you haven’t watched the Beavers play defense you should. Or at least the way they play defense against a Top-10 team with Gary Payton in attendance. It was his presence – self-proclaimed – that elevated the Beavers to victory. From my vantage point it was the active, stifling, and cohesive Beaver zone that led to victory. That and another well executed effort of the isolate bad individual Arizona defenders offense. In this case it was Stanley Johnson and Gabe York. The zone forced Arizona into odd player arrangements to try to make something drop which ultimately left them out of defensive position. Oregon State shot 11-17 in the second half. Which is a lot of words to say Wayne Tinkle sure can coach and I hope he didn’t look like this in his post-Top-10-upset-win-press-conference.
Leading up to Arizona’s loss in Corvallis – as we were all chuckling at Gary Payton’s three keys to why (not even how but why) the Beavers would win – Kevin O’Neill repeatedly told us how little the Duke and Wisconsin losses meant. It was going to give “Mike” and “Bo” (I love how KO only uses first names) some opportunities to really coach. Conference road losses happen. He went so far as to say “it doesn’t mean anything” (and you wonder why people say CBB doesn’t matter outside March). I’m not entirely sure this one didn’t mean anything. We further saw that the Wildcats are flawed in ways that can be exploited. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski were not in the game for some of its biggest moments. Arizona – if it intends to be as good as they want to be – should not be adjusting to you. They make you adjust to them.
I’ve spent a few email exchanges and phone conversations explaining why I’ve kept Utah as the top team in the conference. The primary reason is that since starting moving into the slot, they’ve played the part. I was, in fact, fully prepared to have Arizona jump the Utes this week, expecting an Arizona sweep and perhaps a slight struggle against Colorado. Neither happened. In deconstructing the Buffs, Utah demonstrated their authority over their own style. They’ve jumped into KenPom’s top-10. You must take notice of their 6th ranked defense. Further, we’ve talked so much about Utah’s schedule this season – it’s been great, as a reminder – and the conference schedule has been no different. Three straight home games has a great way to start things off as they head to a trip to the desert.