Checking In On… the Pac-12 ConferencePosted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.
Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.
What to Watch For
There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.
Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.
As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.
Player of the Year Watch
There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?
Jorge Gutierrez may be the favorite, but I’m convinced after this weekend, and after an excellent season to this point, that Terrence Ross is the best player in the conference and, to this point, deserves the hardware. And it may not be that close. He’s averaging 15.6 points per game, grabbing 6.8 boards a night and has scored in double figures in 25 of 27 games. And he’s doing all that on a team where he has to share shot attempts with both Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox. After Ross’ heroics this past weekend against Arizona, combined with games against Washington State and UCLA where he absolutely took over down the stretch, he’s my pick to win the POTY.
Still, there are three games remaining and could be as many as four players among the current conference leaders who will at least garner consideration. Ross and Wroten will both be in the discussion (although we’ve mentioned previously why we feel Wroten is undeserving), while Gutierrez may be joined by his teammate Justin Cobbs among the possibilities. Cobbs has made a late charge and I can certainly make the argument that since the UC Santa Barbara game in the middle of December, Cobbs has been the best player on the Cal team. Over that stretch of 17 games, he has averaged 14.8 points, 5.2 assists, 1.1 steals and shot a 55.8 eFG% all while being very nearly the equal of Gutierrez on the defensive end. And, of the list of players that could reasonably be considered for the POTY in the conference, he has the highest offensive efficiency rating of the bunch.
|Player||Off. Eff. Rtg||PPG||RPG||APG||eFG%|
Freshman of the Year Watch
Let’s take a similar look, combining traditional stats with some advanced stats, at the players on our short list for the FOTY. Along with Wroten, who will almost certainly win the title, guys like Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado and Chasson Randle of Stanford deserve consideration. We’ll also throw in Washington State’s DaVonte Lacy, Cal’s David Kravish and Arizona’s Nick Johnson, for a little variety.
|Player||Off. Eff. Rtg||PPG||RPG||APG||eFG%|
You’ll see Wroten’s offensive numbers, at least the tempo-free ones, pale in comparison to the rest, even in a sort of weak class of freshmen. However, bear in mind that Wroten has been asked to do far more offensively than any of the others on the list (Kravish, in particular, is little more than a defender, rebounder and garbage man – albeit a very effective one – for Cal), and is the biggest perimeter difference maker defensively for his squad as well. While I’d probably opt for giving Dinwiddie the nod out of that bunch, Wroten is pretty close, even in spite of the offensive inefficiency.
California remains on top our power rankings for the fifth consecutive week (and eighth time this year), while Washington moves up to second for just the second time this season. Oregon, Arizona and Colorado are three through five and there ends the list of teams with anything approaching a chance at an at-large bid.
We gave Terrence Ross our Player of the Week honors this week for his jaw-dropping performance against Arizona on Saturday. However, the official Pac-12 POTW went to Justin Cobbs, a righteous choice in his own right. Our selection of Ross was the first time this season that he took home our POTW award, marking 14 different winners in 15 weeks (Jared Cunningham the sole two-time winner). Our Team of the Week was Washington by a nose over California, while he gave Travis Wear our Newcomer of the Week.
YouTube Videos of the Week
Oh man, do we have a wide selection for you this week. Let’s start off with Aziz N’Diaye’s blocked shot, hustle for the loose ball and potential travel before he finishes with the big dunk at the other end.