Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: Solid StudentsPosted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013
Maybe Professor Pac is in a good mood this week, because he couldn’t bring himself to give any of the below teams D’s.
UCLA – C-
A road split. That’s good right? Yeah, it will work, but the way the Bruins lost their first game of the week (building up a 23-point half-time deficit and never making a serious push in the second half) is pretty inexcusable. They bounced back strong against Stanford and turned in their best offensive performance since, maybe Missouri, but this team is still a mystery.
Focus on: Kyle Anderson. Anderson was terrific against Stanford, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 boards, handing out four assists, snatching a couple steals and even knocking down a three (he’s now 5-of-26 for the season from back there). That’s the guy that Ben Howland needs to show up on a regular basis for the Bruins. His ability to make plays for himself and teammates makes the Bruins more explosive and his newfound interest in hitting the glass is an absolutely necessity on an otherwise ridiculously poor rebounding team.
Looking ahead: If the Bruins want to prove to themselves that they have the ability to be a national threat in March, they first have to prove that they can win a big local battle, as they travel 14 miles southeast to face USC on Sunday.
Washington State – C-
So you’re playing the conference leader to a draw. You’ve already got them in overtime and with just seconds left, your sophomore guard who is having a breakout career game knocks down a big three to tie the game and give you a real good chance to go to a second overtime. And then. Ugh. You probably know what happened. I can’t bring myself to repeat it, but suffice it to say, the Cougars went out of their way to ease Oregon’s route to a two-point overtime win. Hey, when you’re 2-11 in conference play, you usually have some bad luck and some ridiculous events. But that? That was above and beyond.
Focus on: Royce Woolridge. So, let’s focus on the positives. After struggling with his shot and his confidence early in the season, this sophomore transfer from Washington State is proving his worth. He has now scored in double figures in six straight games, but the piece de resistance came Saturday against those Ducks as he hit 10-of-15 shots from the field, including six threes on his way to a 36-point total that shattered his previous career-high. As recently as a week ago I was writing off Woolridge as a shooting guard that can’t shoot or a point guard that can’t handle. And clearly, I wrote him off too soon. His confidence is through the roof and he’s showing that he can be a key part to this program for the next couple years.
Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Arizona State tonight, then Arizona on Saturday. Nothing is for certain, but this looks like 2-13 is on the way.
Colorado – C-
You could see this week coming from miles (or I suppose weeks would be the more appropriate unit of measurement) away. The Buffaloes earn their long-awaited revenge on Arizona for their perceived misdeeds in Tucson back at the start of the conference schedule, then after earning the win they’ve been looking forward to for a month and a half, they come out a bit flat and lose to Arizona State. To make matters worse, the way that Arizona State game went down (Colorado coming back from a six-point deficit with just over a minute left in regulation to force overtime, then earning the lead with just seconds left in overtime, only to see it disappear on a driving, twisting, buzzer-beating shot) could rip the heart out of lesser teams.
Focus on: Spencer Dinwiddie. We’ve always liked Dinwiddie’s game, but he’s had peaks and valleys to his play, as should be expected from a guy who is just a sophomore. But, it seems like Dinwiddie has staked his claim as this team’s leader, not only as the solid, unflappable floor general, but also the guy to whom the Buffaloes look to in key situations. And this week he answered every call. Against Arizona, midway through the second half, Dinwiddie went to the bench for a breather with his team up 12. A minute and a half later he re-entered with just a six-point lead and proceeded to, on consecutive possessions, hand out an assist that resulted in a three, score a fast-break layup and then drill a three to extend the lead back to 14, effectively putting the Wildcats away.
Looking ahead: I’m not a big believer in the idea of must-win games, especially for major conference teams, at least until we flip the calendar to March. That being said, the Buffaloes play what is as close to a must-win game as you can get. Fortunately, it is also a should-win game, as they host Utah tomorrow night. But, given that the Utes already have one win over the Buffaloes, Colorado is going to have to earn this.
Arizona – C-
Yeah, there’s all that talent. And size. And veteran leadership. And they’ve got that gaudy 21-4 record. And Sean Miller’s roaming the sidelines. And they’re wearing Arizona uniforms. Put all of that together and top ten team is the usual answer. But factor in the Florida and Colorado miracles, the San Diego State thriller and a pair of tight games against Utah and this very often does not look like a top ten team. There’s still a ton of talent here and they’ll certainly be a tough out come March but, man, doesn’t this seem like a bunch of serial underachievers?
Focus on: Kevin Parrom. On Sunday, Parrom got the nod in the starting lineup for just the second time this season, replacing power forward Brandon Ashley. The senior responded with a completely workmanlike 9-point, 9-rebound, 3-assist effort, the type of which is far more impressive on the floor than in the box score. According to Miller, this is apparently not a one-off, as Parrom is expected to remain in the starting lineup going forward.
Looking ahead: The Wildcats host the Washington schools this week, starting with the Huskies tonight. All due respect to those squads, but these are a pair of games that a real Final Four contender wins without much drama.
Arizona State – C-
The Sun Devils split their Rocky Mountain trip, but the question is whether their win over Colorado should be considered as more good than their loss to Utah is considered bad. At any rate, the Sun Devils remain firmly on the bubble and face a five-game stretch run where they have little room for error.
Focus on: Chris Colvin. The Colvin era in Tempe has been, well, bumpy. He earned a pair of suspensions last season and went for the triple earlier this season, getting shelved for three games in January. But against all odds, he’s turned into something of a senior leader on the court. He’s cut his turnovers drastically (although, to be fair, he turned it over last year at a rate that needed drastic reductions), he’s turned into an excellent defensive weapon and he’ll even occasionally knock down a shot or two. He’s not going to be the type of guy Sun Devils fans talk about wistfully a decade from now, but Colvin has at least salvaged a single halfway decent season in his college career.
Looking ahead: Now, about that stretch run: the Sun Devils host the Washington school this week, and had better make sure to take care of business, because this is the last they’ll see of Wells Fargo Arena this year. After this week it’s out to California for visits to the Southern California schools, then back to the Grand Canyon State for their rematch with Arizona. Let’s say they win both games at home, then come away with one win in their final three games (good news: Arizona State hasn’t been swept on a road trip this season) to finish up 3-2. That puts their overall record at 22-9 with an 11-7 conference record. With an RPI currently around 70, they’ll still probably need some fortunate results from their previous opponents (and opponents’ opponents) to get their RPI numbers up by a few digits. Of course, a season-closing win at Arizona could help in that area too.
Stanford – C-
The Cardinal face the Los Angeles schools, play a couple of pretty solid games, and come away with a pair of losses. Depressing. A week ago this looked like a team ready to reel off a solid close to the season; instead they’ve now lost three of four and face three road tests in their final five conference games.
Focus on: Aaron Bright. It is with much pleasure that I officially pronounce Bright back at 100%. After missing games earlier in the year with an ankle injury and then continuing to show the effects of that injury for weeks afterwards, Bright now finally has the quickness, explosion and confidence that had been missing back. And, that’s a good thing, because while guys like Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle, and Josh Huestis may be better players than Bright, the 5’11” playmaking point guard is the motor that makes this Stanford offense go.
Looking ahead: The Cardinal travel to the Oregon schools this week. Again, no such thing as must-win games yet, but if Stanford really wants to be in the at-large conversation, they need to get to the 10-8 mark in conference play – at least. And with seven losses already, that means there isn’t a lot of wiggle room remaining for the Cardinal. Oh, and another win over Oregon? Yeah, that would look real good on that resume.
Washington – C-
Remember that 4-0 start to conference play? Yeah, I don’t either. They’ve now lost seven of their last nine and are often a chore to watch. But Lorenzo Romar’s still got this team competing and C.J. Wilcox is playing through a continuing foot injury to compete for a conference scoring title.
Focus on: Jernard Jarreu. Once a starter, Jarreau saw his role dwindle to the point where he didn’t even get in the game against USC last Sunday or against Oregon on Wednesday. But on Saturday, Romar called on him for big minutes and the redshirt freshman turned in his best performance of a short career, going for eight points and seven boards in 21 minutes and filling up the stat sheet. A skilled big that is still getting used to having to bang with the big boys up front, there is a lot of talent in this 6’10” frame and this glimpse of the talent starting to emerge is an intriguing storyline to watch down the stretch.
Looking ahead: For all the losing that has piled up over the last month, the Huskies are still just a game under .500 in conference play. If somehow they were able to string together five wins to close the conference season (this sentence is much easier to write than it is to even imagine occurring), they’d be back to 11-7 in conference play and squarely on the bubble. That pipedream begins tonight with a visit to Arizona.