Checking In On… the Pac-12 ConferencePosted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2012
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
- The home teams dominated play this week, going 9-1 in the first weekend of conference play. Fans around the conference will gnash their teeth and overreact to the first two games and anoint teams like Washington, Stanford and California as the runaway favorites, but the fact remains that even in a down year in the Pac-12, the eventual winner of the regular season title will need to win their fair share of road games, while still defending their home court. So, it is good news for the Huskies, Cardinal and Golden Bears, but they’ve still got a lot to prove before distancing themselves from a team like Oregon State, who dropped its first two games of the year in disappointing fashion.
- The one road team to score a win last weekend was Oregon, who played almost a perfect game in their opener against Washington State, scoring almost 1.8 points per possession in the first half, shooting a 78.6 eFG% and sweeping to a 17-point road win. They were brought back to earth a bit on Saturday, when a suddenly hot Washington team tore through them, but a 1-1 record for the Ducks is a significant accomplishment. If they can back that up by holding serve as the Bay Area schools come north this weekend, they’ll be in business.
What to Watch For
- A week of conference play only tells half of the story. This week, for the most part, teams that benefited from opening week homestands have to head on the road, while last week’s road warriors get the comfort of some home-cooking. The biggest clashes of the week may come when the Oregon schools host the Bay Area schools. If either Stanford or California is able to somehow pull off a sweep, they have earned the early title of Pac-12 favorites. Meanwhile, Oregon State, considered by some (ahem), to be the conference favorite prior to last weekend has a lot to prove. The Beavers absolutely have to win both of their games this weekend at Gill Coliseum to still be considered a legitimate contender to the throne.
- Down in Los Angeles, the Southern California schools are a combined 0-4 in Pac-12 play, and they’ve got no easy task as the Arizona schools come calling. The Sun Devils aren’t much to look at, but for either the Trojans or Bruins to have any impact on the conference race, they’ll need to come away with a couple wins this weekend.
- Lastly, the Washington schools head to the Rockies, for games with Colorado and Utah. Go ahead and pencil in (okay, no one would blame you if you used permanent marker) win over Utah for both the Huskies and Cougars, but the games in Boulder could be a different story. We’re still not exactly sure what to expect from the Buffaloes, but we know they’ve got talent aplenty. I, for one, wouldn’t be shocked if CU turned up Sunday morning with a 3-0 conference record.
Player of the Year Watch
- We’ve still got a jumble of players in the mix here, but last weekend we saw Washington freshman Tony Wroten take a big step forward and gain a slight lead in this horse race. His 43 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, all while playing under control and as a good teammate, propelled him not only to the Pac-12 Player of the Week award, but gives him a leg up on guys like Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez, Aaron Bright and Solomon Hill.
- Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham remains in the mix, despite his team’s struggles in Week One, as he did his best to keep the Beavers alive, averaging 18 points per game in OSU’s two losses. However, for Cunningham to stick in the race, he’ll need to see his team have more success as a unit, a goal he certainly prizes over the individual accolades.
Newcomer of the Year Watch
At this point, it’s Tony Wroten’s race to lose. He’s really just started to hit his stride and he’s already second in the conference in scoring average, #12 in assists and fourth in steals. Guys like Carlon Brown, Spencer Dinwiddie, Justin Cobbs and Chasson Randle are still in the mix, with DaVonte Lacy of Washington State making a strong push lately. But Wroten is the heavy favorite, although we’ve still got a lot of race to run.
Stanford and California remain atop this week’s power rankings, while Arizona and Oregon move up and Oregon State move down. Washington’s two wins on the week, however, did little to change their ranking, only moving them up one spot to #6, still behind the two Oregon schools who they just dismantled at home last weekend. I know I was impressed with the Huskies, but Connor clearly still wants to see Lorenzo Romar’s team win a game away from the Hec Ed before he buys in.
It was all Washington this week in the Pac-12 honors, as the Huskies took home the award for Team of the Week, while Tony Wroten snatched Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week honors. It was Wroten’s third time winning RTC’s Pac-12 NOTW award, but the first time he took home the Player of the Week honors, and now through eight weeks, eight different conference players have won our weekly recognition.
Play of the Week
Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson perhaps haven’t been as consistently effective as Arizona fans would have hoped, but they’ve had their fair share of spectacular plays. Here’s this week’s edition: