Checking In On… the Pac-12 ConferencePosted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
- The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
- Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.
What to Watch For
- Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two.
- Other games to keep an eye on this weekend include Colorado looking to bounce back from its lost weekend in the Bay Area against the Arizona schools, with a matchup against the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon being the highlight, while UCLA faces two significant tests on its trip to Oregon. If the Ducks can score a couple home wins this weekend, they could find themselves in first place on Sunday morning, while the Beavers need to turn their season around in a hurry. Meanwhile, USC is still looking for its first win of the conference season and could be playing like a wounded animal this weekend. While the games in Seattle on Thursday and Saturday will get the most attention, those fights in central Oregon could be vicious.
Player of the Year Watch
- Sunday night in Seattle, Washington sophomore guard Terrence Ross resubmitted his name for consideration for Player of the Year honors, busting out for 26 second-half points on his way to a total of 30, paired nicely with a side of 14 rebounds. Ross has been amazingly consistent for the Huskies this season, scoring in double figures in 16 of his team’s 17 games, but since the emergence of Tony Wroten in late December, Ross has had trouble finding his spots. After taking double-digit field goal attempts in nine straight games at the start of the season, his shot totals have been up and down lately. However, Sunday night he was aggressive and, while still playing within the offense, managed 21 shots. For the year, he’s shooting a 53.9% eFG and is second on his team in rebounds and blocked shots. Wroten probably remains slightly ahead of Ross for the season, but both players have more important things to worry about than some silly POTY award; their squad has enough talent to be in the conference title race all season long.
- Elsewhere this weekend, the only “wow” numbers Oregon senior Devoe Joseph put up were two road wins, but those combined with solid number across the board in his brief time in Eugene are enough to have him in the discussion. Stanford freshman Chasson Randle has taken his game to a new level since playing the hero in the quadruple overtime win over OSU a week ago; this week he added 29 points in his two games. And guys like Aaron Bright and Josh Owens at Stanford and California’s Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe will likely be in the conversation until March, despite their team’s more balanced offensive styles. Meanwhile, for the time being, early favorite Jared Cunningham is out of the race. He still leads the conference in scoring, but with his team mired at 1-5, he’ll need to prove he can help his team string together some wins before he deserves any further mention in this space.
Newcomer of the Year Watch
Of the eight guys mentioned in the above section, three of them are newcomers: the freshmen Wroten and Randle and the senior transfer Joseph. For the time being, they’re the possibilities here, with Wroten having a significant advantage over the other two in terms of scoring, highlight reel entries and overall buzz. Sitting less than a point back of Cunningham for the conference scoring lead, Wroten has proven himself to be a prolific scorer and a entertaining talent. But if either Randle or Joseph is able to keep up a similar level of production while his team jumps to the top of the conference race, they could have an argument.
For the seventh consecutive week, we’ve got Stanford and California atop our Pac-12 Power Rankings at spots one and two, but for the first time this season, Oregon has climbed as high as #3. But don’t get too used to that #3 spot, Ducks, as each of the last three weeks saw the team ranked third drop the following week; this week it was Colorado diving from #3 to #6 following their 0-2 week.
We opted for a deep cut this week, choosing Stanford’s Josh Huestis as our Player of the Week, opting to award the surprising contribution from the Cardinal’s reserve forward rather than the spectacular night from Washington’s Ross. Also recognized this week were Oregon as our Team of the Week and Devoe Joseph as our Newcomer of the Week. All three were first time winners, and we’ve now given our POTW award to a different player each week of the season.
YouTube of the Week
Just five of Terrence Ross’ 30 points, but this spectacular three followed a possession later by an alley-oop slam off a beautiful Abdul Gaddy pass capped his big night in fine fashion: