Pac-12 Burning Questions: Overreact Much?Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2012
Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:
Which result (or set of results) from the opening week will cause the biggest overreaction in the conference?
Connor Pelton: I know I’ve made this known before, but Oregon State’s 0-2 start to Pac-12 play is definitely cause for overreaction. It would have been one thing if the Beavers gave Washington and Washington State a good game, but the truth is, they got handled in each facet of the game and were lucky to only lose by 15 and six. That’s why those two are such a big deal; the way they lost them was inexcusable. It seems as if everything the team was building towards in their 12 non-conference games suddenly flew out the window.
The team’s star and leader, Jared Cunningham, couldn’t knock down a three-pointer to save his life. You may remember the Beavers 2-7 record in the middle of conference play last year. Coincidentally, Cunningham also had no touch from behind the arc in those games, either. Rebounding, both offensively and defensively, is something that has plagued the team all year, but the Beavs were able to get away with it when they would play smaller and lesser opponents. But this week, we only began to see the downside of scheduling teams like Townson and Chicago State as big men Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, and Eric Moreland were obviously unprepared to go up against the big and physical Husky forwards. They were pushed around and would occasionally just give up on DEFENSIVE rebounds, which in turn led to a total of 86 points in the paint by the Huskies and Cougars.
Since it’s fun to talk about and you are technically never out of the conversation, what do the Beavers have to do to stay in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament? Beginning in their games against the Bay Area schools this weekend, they are going to need complete performances from everyone on the roster. That means Cunningham needs to light it up from behind the arc. Ahmad Starks needs to shoot well for the entire 40 minutes, not just the final three. And Roberto Nelson has to find the range he showed in December to give the Beavers another look from downtown. If those three are able to stretch defenses to the perimeter, it will open up more looks in the paint for the previously mentioned big men. All four of them are capable of scoring but tend to get erratic when there is pressure in the paint. If they have good scoring and rebounding games, and Gill Coliseum is truly rocking for the first time this year, the Beavers have a small chance of sweeping California and Stanford.
That would stop the overreacting.
Andrew Murawa: Washington looked just great this past weekend. Not only did freshman guard Tony Wroten string together his best and most complete pair of performances in his young career, but he did so in a way that left plenty of room for guys like Abdul Gaddy, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox to play to their strengths as well. Add in the fact that the Huskies had arguably their best pair of defensive performances on the season, holding the Oregon schools to 0.95 points per possession, and Husky fans are rightfully pumped up about their team’s chances to take home the regular season title.
Well, Husky fans, slow your roll. This is still a team that just two weeks ago gave up 1.44 PPP to South Dakota State and has only twice in the previous six weeks held a team to under a point per possession – and those were against Houston Baptist and Cal State Northridge. Pile on the fact that last year the Huskies started quite strong in conference play as well, reeling off five straight wins to open the Pac-10 before stumbling against a very ordinary Stanford team. They later dropped three straight road games to middling conference opponents before losing three of their last four conference games (including two in the friendly confines of Hec Ed Pavilion). Two years ago there was another three-game losing streak in conference play and an 0-4 start on the road in the Pac-10. In short, this team needs to prove (1) that it can win away from home (something it has yet to do this year – they are 0-4 outside of Seattle); and (2) that it can sustain the type of defensive effort it displayed last week throughout the conference schedule.
The Huskies definitely have a manageable schedule here in the early-going, with winnable road games against Colorado and Utah followed by a three-game Pac-12 homestand against Washington State, California and Stanford (with a throwaway game against Seattle sandwiched in there), but they’ll need to prove their maturity and consistency before they should be considered a legitimate regular season title contender.
Now, the Pac-12 Tournament? That’s another story.