Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day EditionPosted by Drew Murawa on February 14th, 2014
- We’ve got a rare Friday night Pac-12 game tonight and, first off, I’m not sure how to feel about this. After years of Thursday/Saturday games and maybe the occasional Sunday game, I’ve had a hard enough time getting used to Wednesday games and 6pm weekday tip-times. And the unbalanced conference schedule is a non-starter. But a Friday night game? And on Valentine’s Day of all days? Suffice it to say I’m not feeling the love. But, my opinion doesn’t matter and so Arizona and Arizona State will go at it tonight. Arizona keeps plugging along in the wake of the Brandon Ashley injury, but what we thought we be one of their biggest weaknesses coming into the season – perimeter shooting – is now exacerbated. As Steve Rivera of Fox Sports Arizona points out, against Oregon last week, the Wildcats couldn’t hit anything outside of 12 feet or so. But against Oregon State, the perimeter shooting was strong. For the Wildcats to live up to their Final Four dreams, they’ll need to find a way to regularly knock down enough perimeter shots to keep opposing defenses honest.
- Meanwhile, for Arizona State, senior center Jordan Bachynski is not only the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week and newly crowned career blocked shots leader, but he’s arguably the hottest player in the conference. This kind of play bordered on unimaginable as he was struggling through his freshman season little more than a tall body getting pushed around and showing no offensive skill. His offensive rating (per KenPom) was 91.6 as a freshman, he was shooting below 50% from the field and right at 50% from the line. This year, that ORtg is over 116, he’s at about 60% from the field and pushing 70% from the free throw line. And, he’s become a better shotblocker and rebounder over the years too. His head coach Herb Sendek goes so far as to call him the most improved player in the nation over the last three and a half years and it is hard to argue with him.
- The other rivalry game this weekend is Oregon State at Oregon, a game that could feature some trash talking. And, for Beaver star Roberto Nelson, that talking is welcomed. Last week against Arizona State, after a lackluster first half, Nelson responded to Sun Devil Shaquielle McKissic’s trash talking with a 24-point outburst after halftime, an explosion that Nelson partially attributes to his response to the talk. However, if you’re looking for a similar situation to occur this weekend against the Ducks, don’t hold your breath, as Nelson says this Oregon team is largely free of trash talkers.
- Another big factor for the Beavers this weekend will be the play of senior big man Angus Brandt who has bounced back nicely from last year’s ACL injury. However, despite a strong start to the season, his three-point shooting, something he was well-known for prior to the injury, had not entirely returned. But, over the last three games, Brandt has hit four of five from deep. If he can continue to knock his shots in from deep, he’ll help Oregon State stretch out the defense for guys like Nelson to penetrate and for big men Devon Collier and Eric Moreland to work in the paint.
- Below is our panel’s selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. We head to the desert for our game of the week, where both Drew and myself are taking upset-minded Arizona State in a rare Friday conference game. Adam is sticking with his Wildcats in the Territorial Cup.
Game Connor (17-3) Drew (12-8) Adam (11-9) Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona Utah @ UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA Colorado @ USC Colorado Colorado Colorado Stanford @ Washington State Stanford Stanford Stanford California @ Washington Washington California California Oregon State @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon