Checking In On… the Pac-12 ConferencePosted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
- This past weekend likely saw the best regular season game of the Pac-12 schedule, as Stanford battled Oregon State for four exciting overtimes before finally securing an all-important road victory.
- Given the relative homogeneity of the conference, the recipe for winning the regular season title is going to be: 1) take care of business at home; and 2) steal a handful of road games against the middle and bottom of the Pac. On both of those fronts, Stanford is looking good now, sitting with California, Washington, and Arizona atop the conference. What’s that you say? Colorado actually leads the conference with a 3-0 record? Sorry Buffs, but get back to me once you have tasted the road in the Pac-12. Right now all three of their wins have come at home.
- Elsewhere this past weekend, Thursday night was upset central as all six underdogs came away with victories that night, before things got back to normal, as only Stanford was able to spring the upset. UCLA got back to .500 in conference after sweeping the Arizona schools, making the Bruins and Buffs the only homestanders to win both of their games last weekend.
- And, lastly, the Pac-12 lost another promising player to immaturity this week, as Keala King was dismissed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek after being left back from the Sun Devils’ trip to the Los Angeles-area schools week along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin. In Sendek’s press conference on Tuesday, he referred to King being unhappy with being forced to play point guard in the absence of ineligible freshman Jahii Carson and butting heads with Sendek over his role. As a result, King joins the growing list of Pac-12 players who have divorced their programs this season.
What to Watch For
- The biggest story to keep an eye on this weekend is Colorado’s first road trip in conference, as they head to the Bay Area to face California on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday afternoon. We’ll have a good idea where the Buffs stand in the Pac-12 by the time Denver and New England kick off their NFL Divisional playoff game Saturday night.
- The other game to keep an eye on Thursday night is Oregon State traveling to Arizona. The Beavers are coming off a crushing loss at home, but if they can somehow steal a win in Tucson, they would call it even. OSU then has a winnable trip to Arizona State on Saturday while it is Oregon’s turn to visit the McKale Center.
- Sunday features a couple of rivalry games between traveling partners, as Washington State visits Washington before UCLA makes trip to cross-town rival USC, the lone team still without a win in conference.
Player of the Year Watch
- After week one of conference play, Tony Wroten was the name on everybody’s lips in the Pac-12, but his first road trip to the Rockies made it clear that he has still got a ways to go. After a solid game in the loss to Colorado on Thursday night, Wroten backed that up with a great trick: turning invisible against Utah. He only shot the ball six times and grabbed just two rebounds in 28 minutes of play. For a player of his talents, that’s a sign that he simply didn’t have his head in a game the Huskies were expected to win easily. He bounced back with a big line in a similarly “blah” game against Seattle on Tuesday night, so hopefully Lorenzo Romar can use the Utah disappearance as a teaching point. His teammate C.J. Wilcox had an awful game of his own against the Utes, but he was awful in an entirely different way; instead of being invisible, Wilcox was clearly there, but made just two of his 13 shots. He too bounced back against Seattle, but for now, he appears to be running behind Wroten and even teammate Terrence Ross in the POTY race.
- Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez both have been hot lately and are significant factors in this race. Crabbe scored a career-high 26 points and added a career-high 12 rebounds in a key road win over Oregon, and he’s now scored in double figures in 12 straight games after a little dip just before Thanksgiving; he’s averaged 17.1 points per game over that stretch. Gutierrez may not have as pure of a stroke as Crabbe, but he’s scored in double figures in his last five, and does all sorts of little things on the floor that make for happy coaches.
- Elsewhere, Arizona’s Solomon Hill had his first good trip back to his old stomping grounds, when he averaged 13.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the Wildcats’ road split in L.A., and he remains a dark horse POTY candidate, while Colorado’s Carlon Brown threw his hat back into the ring with a strong performance as well.
Newcomer of the Year Watch
- Wroten is still the runaway favorite here, but Brown has to be considered, even if, as a senior transfer, he’s not your typical newcomer. But, he’s been consistent all year long, scoring in double figures in all but two of the Buffaloes’ games and providing a senior leadership and a team-first attitude that has helped propel Tad Boyle’s squad to its early success. His teammate, freshman Spencer Dinwiddie, has also been excellent.
- Stanford’s Chasson Randle came up huge in their four-overtime thriller Saturday night, and he’s got excellent numbers on the year as well, but Stanford’s shared production will probably limit its ability to earn its players a ton of individual accolades.
Stanford and California remain one-two in our Pac-12 power rankings, but it was Colorado that somehow made a huge jump on the basis of their 3-0 conference record.
Colorado’s two wins at home this weekend earned them our Team of the Week honors, while their senior leader Carlon Brown took home the RTC Pac-12 Player of the Week award. He shouldn’t exactly check his mailbox for the hardware though.
YouTube of the Week
We have a highlight reel below from the Oregon State-Stanford epic on Saturday night. Sure, this video is a little Beaver-heavy to the exclusion of Stanford’s highlights, but at least you get to see:
- Roberto Nelson knocking down back-to-back threes after throwing a shoe, much to the delight of the announcers, beginning at the 2:16 mark. And then late in the game he’s back again, body-slamming Josh Huestis beginning at the 11:43 mark
- And here you can see more balanced highlights, including Josh Owens’ apparent game-winner in regulation being waved off, Anthony Brown’s game-tying three at the end of the third overtime and much of the other madness in this great game.