Checking in on the… Pac-10Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2008
Michael Hurley of The Bleacher Report is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
The Pac-10 still is searching for the first defining win of the year. The out of conference schedules have not helped any teams come tournament time. Sure Stanford is 4-0, but the toughest team they have played is a 4-3 Colorado team who lost to Montana State. Arizona State is 7-1, but their best win is over a 6-1 Nebraska team, who had yet to play a team from a big conference when they came into Tempe. One thing is for sure, the Pac-10 does not want to go back into Texas where Arizona lost 67-66 at Texas A&M and UCLA lost 68-64 at Texas . In fact, the only win against a Texas team this week was Washington’s victory over winless Texas Southern University. The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is not what Tom Hansen envisioned, as the Pac-10 is 3-6 so far. Worth noting, Arizona is two baskets away from being 8-0.
Player of the Week- James Harden
James Harden is on a tear. In both wins this week he averaged 21 points and 9.5 rebounds. Harden started off the first four games shooting 2 for 14 from downtown, but in the last four he is shooting an unbelievable 16-22 from three point range. He is not the only star in the Pac-10, though. Harden is one of three players averaging 20 points a game, shooting over 50% from the field and the three point line, and shooting over 80% from three point range. The other two are Jerome Randle of California , and Chase Budinger of Arizona .
Honorable Mention: Randle with 20 points and 4 assists a game in a 2-1 week for California . He also hit the game winning three in their win over Utah. Jordan Hill of Arizona who averaged 22.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds this week for the Wildcats in a split. Freshman Garrett Sim of Oregon who averaged 22 points and 4.5 rebounds in two games last week including a season high 28 in a loss to Utah.
Team of the Week – Arizona State
Arizona State has rebounded nicely from the Baylor loss. Arizona State was one of two from the Pac-10 who finished 2-0, with the other being Washington. Arizona State handled both Jackson State and Nebraska with ease at home. Harden and Rihards Kuksiks both had a good week for the Sun Devils.
Game of the Week
Either of the games in Texas could be picked as game of the week. Both went down to the wire with great individual performances on both sides of the ball. I would have to pick the UCLA vs. Texas matchup just because of the skill on the court. Watching A.J Abrams and Darren Collison warranted the game of the week pick.
Best game of the upcoming week:
12/14 Gonzaga at Arizona – Can Arizona pull the huge upset here? Will Gonzaga win big in their second of back to back games against Pac-10 opponents? Budinger, Hill, Pargo, and Heytvelt promise to makes this an interesting game.
1. Arizona State (7-1)
Last week: 12/04 W 61-40 over Jackson State at home, 12/07 W 64-44 over Nebraska at home
Next week: 12/14 vs. IUPUI at home
Arizona State went undefeated this week with two twenty point wins, 61-40 against Jackson State and 64-44 against Nebraska. Both were home games. The closest Jackson State got to the Sun Devils was eleven points with 14:14 left in the second half. The Sun Devils then proceeded to go on a 9-0 run with James Harden on the bench. Harden finished with 22 and 8. After losing to Nebraska last year, ASU handed the Cornhuskers their first loss of the year. Harden was scoreless for the first 19 minutes, but still managed to finish with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. The Sun Devils defense held the Cornhuskers to 29% shooting. Rihards Kuksiks played especially well this week averaging 17 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Harden is averaging 25.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.6 steals. He is shooting 57.6% from the field including 50% from three point range, and 81% from the foul line. Coach Herb Sendek needs to be careful of tiring his starters. They all have been averaging over 28 minutes a game this year.
2. UCLA (5-2)
Last week: 12/04 L 68-64 at Texas , 12/07 W 95-67 over Cal State Northridge at home
Next week: 12/13 at Depaul, 12/17 vs. Loyola Marymount at home
The Bruins had no answer against Texas for A.J Abrams, who finished with 31 points including 5-9 from downtown. Abrams scored the last six of the game including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:53 left to take the lead for good. UCLA was not able to score in the last 2+ minutes. Darren Collison scored 22 with five assists and Josh Shipp finished with 15. UCLA has fallen from its high ranking, but still looks like they will put it together by year end. The Texas squad has proven it is a top-tier team. The next game will hurt their seeding for the NCAA tournament though because they don’t play another ranked team out of conference until Notre Dame in February. Against Cal State Northridge, there were 42 combined turnovers. Even with the lopsided score, UCLA did not bounce back the way Coach Howland expected. UCLA had six players score 9 or more pointers with freshman Jrue Holiday finishing with a team high fourteen.
3. California (7-2)
Last week: 12/03 W 77-67 over Depaul at home, 12/07 L 93-66 @ Missouri , 12/10 W 72-69 @ Utah
Next week: No games
I still don’t know what to make of this California team. After a 5-0 start California has gone 3-2. They had a solid win at UNLV followed by a tough loss against a good Florida State team. This week the up and downs continued with a 2-1 showing. Bouncing back from the FSU loss, Cal won 77-67 over Depaul. Even with ASU’s James Harden starting the year as hot as he has, he does not lead the league in three point percentage. Jerome Randle is shooting an out of his mind 61% clip from three point range. Against Depaul he hit three huge long balls in the second half, finishing with 24 points. He also had six assists. Patrick Christopher also finished with a season high 23 points, 16 of which came in the first half. The next game out Cal got stomped out by Missouri in a 27 point loss. After Christopher and Randle combined for 47 points against Depaul, they were held to only 24 points against Missouri . Christopher shot 3-15 from the field. The team shot only 35% from the field and turned the ball over 20 times. Missouri ’s bench outscored the Golden Bears’ bench 44-21. The Golden Bears then managed to go into Utah and escape with a three point victory over an inconsistent Utah team. Randle scored 21 points and hit the game winning three pointer with 6 seconds left. Christopher had a good game scoring 17 and junior Theo Robertson added 17. This Cal team is looking like they are for real and will finish top three in the conference, but they need to get some consistency out of the rest of the team sans Randle.
4. Washington State (6-3)
Last week: 12/06 L 58-52 to Baylor at home, 12/10 L 74-52 to Gonzaga at home
Next week: 12/14 at Colorado State , 12/17 vs. Northern Arizona University at home
Baylor already beat the conference’s best, and came into Pullman and left with another win over a Pac-10 opponent. The closest Washington State got was 42-42 with 9:00 left. The Cougars only shot 37% from the field. Daven Harmeling and Aron Baynes each finished with 14 points. Gonzaga broke open a close game outscoring Washington State by 19 in the second half. Washington State has looked good this year, but in all of their losses they can only keep it close for so long. That being said there losses have been to #3 Pittsburgh , #4 Gonzaga, and #22 Baylor. Had they been able to pull out any of the three, (especially Baylor) we would be looking at a surprisingly good resume so far. Their six wins have been by an average of 26 points.
5. Arizona (6-2)
Last week: 12/05 @ L 67-66 at Texas A&M, 12/10 W 69-56 over San Diego State at home
Next week: 12/14 vs. Gonzaga at home
In the A&M game Arizona blew a 40-29 halftime lead. They had outrebounded their Aggie counterparts by a 20 to 5 margin at half. Late in the second half B.J Holmes hit two huge three pointers for A&M. Down by two with twenty seconds left, Nathan Walkup hit a three pointer for his only basket of the game and gave A&M their only lead. Chase Budinger missed a fall-away jumper from the left side of the foul line with time running out. Jordan Hill had another good game shooting 10-15 for twenty points and had eight rebounds. Budinger finished with 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. In the San Diego State game, Hill led Arizona with 25 points and 13 rebounds. The Wildcats held San Diego scoreless in the final four minutes of the game and turned a two point game into an 11 point win. Next week Arizona has a chance to make some noise when Gonzaga comes into Tucson . It could be the defining victory the Pac-10 needs.
6. Stanford (4-0)
Last week: No games
Next week: 12/14 @ Colorado State , 12/17 at home vs. Northern Arizona University
Stanford did not play at all last week.
7. USC (5-3)
Last week: 12/04 L 73-72 at Oklahoma
Next week: 12/15 vs. Pepperdine at home
USC went into Norman and played the Sooners tougher than expected, but still came up short. The Trojans held Blake Griffin to six rebounds, 13 below his season average of 19.2. Griffin still finished with 25 points. Dwight Lewis finished with 24 points and Daniel Hackett had 13 assists while playing 40 minutes. Neither teams went deep. Both sides played only six players more than eight minutes in the game. After starting the season in the Top 25, USC is 0-3 in games against BCS conference opponents. There last chance to solidify themselves before conference play is against Georgia Tech December 22nd.
8. Washington (5-3)
Last week: 12/04 W 83-65 vs. Oklahoma State at home, 12/06 W 88-52 Texas Southern University
Next week: 12/14 Portland State
Washington was the second of the two Pac-10 teams to go undefeated in multiple games this week. After they took the lead 12-11 with fifteen minutes left Washington never gave it up. In the second half the closest it got was 14 points. Washington freshman Isaiah Thomas had 18 points, while big man Jon Brockman had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Four of their starters scored in double digits. Brockman had his second double-double of the week with 15 points and 11 rebounds. In the second half, it was all freshman Matthew Bryan-Amaning, as he scored fourteen straight for the Huskies in a six minute interval. Bryan-Amaning finished with 18. The Huskies forced 24 turnovers and took advantage scoring 46 points off turnovers against a winless Texas Southern team. Brockman continues to pile up the double-doubles, he now has 45 in his career. Brockman needs only 17 more rebounds to become only the 12th player in history of the Pac-10 with 1,000 in his career.
9. Oregon (4-4)
Last week: 12/03 L 95-81 at Utah , 12/07 over Kansas St. at home
Next week: 12/13 vs. USD at home, 12/17 vs. St. Mary’s College at home
In a game in which Oregon didn’t have freshman stud Michael Dunigan, backup forward Frantz Dorsainvil, and the leading rebounder Joevan Catron who left during the second half with an ankle injury, they played tough but came up short for their third straight loss. The lone bright point was freshman Garret Sim who scored a season high 28, 20 more than his season average. In the Kansas State victory with Dunigan still out, Tajuan Porter picked up the slack scoring a season-high 28. Sim chipped in with 16 points and 6 rebounds, equaling his total amount of rebounds from the first seven games. Sim has really impressed in Dunigan’s absence. Once Dunigan returns the two freshmen can be a great building block for the Ducks.
10. Oregon State (1-5)
Last week: 12/04 L 63-50 at Iowa State
Next week: 12/13 vs. Nebraska at home, 12/16 vs. Seattle Pacific at home
The Beavers’ tough year continued with another loss. This one was at Iowa State in which they shot 2-19 from downtown. They still managed still cut the deficit to six points with five minutes to play. A three pointer by Cyclone Lucca Staiger, who finished with 14 points, ended the run.