Marching to Vegas: Keep Watching

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on February 11th, 2015

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops will again be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference as we begin the March to Vegas.

I suppose it’s not a comfort that’s befallen me so much as an acceptance. I first recognized the Pac-12’s general ineptitude as I found myself unaware of game schedules, player success (or otherwise) and disinterest in the whole thing. Let’s also be serious that I was still paying attention. Close attention. And I still want to. After all, we’re not at 2012 levels where just three players wound up drafted and Jorge Gutierrez was the conference Player of the Year. Washington was not invited to dance despite winning the regular season title. This is a story lead that could last forever. Alas, we’re not there but we have the excuse to excuse the rest of this season. It’s more than likely that your team is fighting for a three lettered tournament, at best. What’s there to support? What’s there to watch? The Pac-12 has hosted the highest percentage of in-conference blowouts. Where’s the intrigue? Let me tell you.

Pac-12 Basketball: It's Grrr-... Well, It's Okay.

Pac-12 Basketball: It’s Grrr-… Well, It’s Okay.

Now let’s preface this by saying that I don’t love the format of this column. I generally prefer to tell a story with words and numbers. But I also don’t like to watch middling college basketball teams in the Conference of Champions so I’m cool with it. A list it is. Six reasons to continue watching Pac-12 basketball in 2015:

1. Byes. Not Byes as in “saying goodbye to the 2015 season,” but rather, who among the muck will rise to finish in the third and fourth slots? The top-four seeds receive a Wednesday bye in Las Vegas. Have you ever tried to stay four nights in Vegas? Near impossible. You want the bye. So who’s in the running? The primary candidates are Oregon and Stanford (we’re ignoring Arizona and Utah, as they’re essentially locked in). The Ducks collected a big last-second win on Wednesday, improving to 6-4 in conference play. The rest of their schedule is road heavy but doesn’t include any more games against Arizona and they’ll host Utah. The team ahead of Oregon in the standings, Stanford, had seemed to be a lock to finish in the top three, but after a loss to Washington State I’m not so sure. Oh, then they lost at home to UCLA, a team which is now knocking on the bye door. This is usually the part where we note the wildcard teams, but then I’d be laying out a power rankings of unpowerful teams. Right now, there is a four-way tie for third. In all honesty, keep an eye on Arizona State and ignore USC.

2. Seniors. They’re everywhere and this is the inaugural Pac-12 senior class. We’re headed into a stretch run with nine teams staking claim to the sentimental charge (except for Oregon State, which has zero seniors on their roster) for the home stretch to Vegas. Watch DaVonte Lacy shoot his team to relevance. Admire Askia Booker as the most improved player on a team that needed far more than just him to improve. He did his part. Be inspired by what Shaq McKissic has been through and how he’s matured to be one of the best defenders – if not complete players – in the Pac-12. A grown man. Understand that two-headed senior monsters are rare and that Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown are special. Know that David Kravish has worked his ass off to be one of the toughest players in the conference. I mean it. Respect Norman Powell for the journey of his college career. I probably missed someone – many – but you know who they are. They’re a good reason to watch.

Askia Booker, Colorado

Seniors Like Colorado’s Askia Booker Are Always Worth Keeping An Eye On, Because Soon They’ll Be Gone (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

3. McKale. They can hover around the middle of the top 10. They might not even wind up as a top seed. But really all the Wildcats have done is steadily improve throughout the course of their schedule. They continue to do so. It may only be a 35-game season but it’s a marathon. The difference between November and March is the difference between the second round and a title game. If the premise of this column is such that we won’t re-live 2012, the Wildcats are a major part of that. They won’t just be the likely conference champions (Utah has an absolute shot at winning) but they’re a likely Final Four contender. I’m not entirely sure you could have made a Final Four roster from all 12 teams in 2012 (hyperbole, chill out). Greatness is must-see stuff. It’s why I went to Santa Clara last week to watch Gonzaga. When someone or something is at the top of its game, you just have to take notice.

4. Huntsman. Similar to our note above, watch Utah play because they are one of the most well-coached, disciplined teams we’ve seen. I’m not sold that they’re much more talented than the teams on their heels, but if you want a lesson in basketball, Utah is the place to gaze. From their first Pac season to now, the whole thing has been a clinic in program development. I’ve been paying attention, but it was all reiterated in this week’s, The Drive. All of which is pretty vague. Let’s get granular. What you need to watch is the Huntsman Center on Saturday, February 28, at a yet-to-be-determined time on a yet-to-be-determined-ESPN channel. I suppose that’s no less vague than telling you to tune into any old Utah game. But maybe with the promise of us all watching, Game Day will head to Salt Lake City?

5. The Future. Because next year cannot suck nearly as bad, right? Just off the top of my head I’m excited to see – right now – what we’re going to be getting into with an upperclassman Josh Hawkinson, Nigel Williams-Goss, Nikola Jovanovic and Malcolm Duvivier. Right now is kind of like September call-ups in baseball; there will be a handful of guys making significant impacts in the season’s waning and most critical, pressure-packed games. Trial by fire. And what of the guys we haven’t heard of? You can find these guys on KenPom. They’re the ones with low minutes and usage with a high offensive rating. They aren’t on the floor often or necessarily featured, but they’re significant contributors when they are. Curious? Casey Benson (110.3/11.4), Jordan Bell (117/13), Marcus Allen (110.7/14.2), Dorian Pickens (115.5/15.3), Brett Boese (120.5/13.6), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (110.1/20), and Dusan Ristic (112.4/18). Let’s revisit this list in a year.

6. Inertia. Are you familiar with this principle of physics? It states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. It’s a principle that lends itself to the end of a season in such that we ask who will capture sweet momentum? Cal was hot, cooled off, and has now won three straight. Washington was ranked as high as #13 in the nation before losing a plethora of games and their most important player. The opposite of momentum. Heading into conference play, UCLA lost five straight and in ugly fashion before – currently – rattling off a handful of wins. Maybe none of this means anything right now. Oregon State has done nothing but thoroughly exceed expectations. NCAA Tournament exclusion doesn’t sit well in some communities. But momentum is universal, and when it’s captured, the vibe around a program is drastically different. Who, among our middling group, can capture it as we close on the end of this forgettable season to create future memories?

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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