Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of the Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 30th, 2015

With most of the in-season tournaments now over, there are some definite early Pac-12 observations that can be made. Here are a few:

  • Best Way to Give Yourself a Headache: Commit to being a Washington fan for the whole season. The Huskies may very well become a force to be reckoned with by the time the season is over, but the current iteration of the team is a bit of a mess. The Huskies have six freshmen and newcomer Malik Dime in their rotation, and all the youth shows. They foul seemingly every other time down the court; they turn the ball over regularly; but perhaps most maddeningly, they take plenty of shots that would make any discerning basketball fan roll his eyes. But they also have given themselves chances to win because they are athletic, relentless on the glass and consistently harass opposing shooters. The future may be bright for this program, but the present can be painful to watch.
So far Wayne Tinkle is doing everything right on and off the court in Corvallis. (Getty)

So far Wayne Tinkle is doing everything right on and off the court in Corvallis. (Getty)

  • Best Example of Holiday Spirit: Attendance remains an issue across the Pac-12, but perhaps not for much longer if Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle has anything to do with it. Tinkle handed out four free tickets for the Beavers’ game against Valparaiso last Tuesday because a fan on Twitter told the coach he would be cheering from home because money was tight. The fan, an Oregon native, subsequently brought his father, uncle and aunt with him to the game. Sadly for him and other Oregon State fans, though, the Beavers would end up falling short against an excellent Valparaiso team. The arena still wasn’t full, and drumming up much fan support for a program that has seen little recent success will be harder than Tinkle’s random acts of Twitter kindness. But give the second-year coach some credit. He didn’t have to do anything and the fan would have still supported the Beavers. Instead, he took the time to make someone’s day, and in the process likely winning his program a fan for life.

  • Worst Reminder That a Flashy Recruiting Class Only Plugs So Many Holes: California fans can relax because the Golden Bears will be a much better team in January and February than they’ve shown so far. How much better of a team depends on whether the Golden Bears can find reliable help for freshman big man Ivan Rabb on the inside. Rabb has the makings of a frontcourt menace but Kameron Rooks is the only other current rotation player taller than 6’7″ and he wasn’t trusted to play in a loss to Richmond. To make matters worse, Rabb has struggled with foul trouble; keeping him on the court for long stretches has not been easy for Cuonzo Martin. Interior depth is hardly the Bears’ only issue at the moment, but it may be the one the team has the most trouble solving over the course of the season.
Despite high expectations, Jordan Mathews and Cal have underwhelmed. (Getty)

Despite high expectations, Jordan Mathews and Cal have underwhelmed. (Getty)

  • Best Vanishing Act: Through the first four games of the season, senior guard Jordan Mathews was Cal’s most efficient offensive player. But in the team’s two holiday losses in Vegas, the sharpshooter completely disappeared. Matthews didn’t actually disappear, of course — he was on the court — but when he was out there, he was pretty bad. He went 4-of-13 from the field in the slugfest against San Diego State, a game in which no player looked especially great. But the next day he was the team’s only player to have an offensive rating below 100.0 in the 184-point shootout with the Spiders. He managed to grab six rebounds, but shot just 1-of-8 from the field and only got to the free throw line one time. The guess here is that this malaise is more of a bump in the road than anything else, but Mathews is the team’s best pure shooter and is desperately needed to supply Cal’s offense with another dimension.
  • Worst Showing From a Supposedly Good (Mediocre?) Team: Stanford may be the worst team in the conference so this is somewhat misleading, but the Cardinal’s performance on national television against Villanova was borderline offensive. The team made fewer than half as many field goals (11) as it had turnovers (23), managed just four assists all game long, and shot just 60 percent from the free throw line. The one silver lining was that it dominated the Wildcats on the glass, but even that statistic may be grossly misleading given how often Stanford was firing up bricks. The Cardinal redeemed itself slightly by rebounding to beat a rebuilding Arkansas squad the next day, but the performance against Villanova shows that this is a team still a long way from competitiveness in the Pac-12. This will probably not be the last time Stanford will be held to fewer than 50 points in a game this season.
  • Second Worst Showing From a Supposedly Good Team: There weren’t too many brag-worthy wins in the Pac-12 this week so we are going to use this spot to pick on Arizona. The Wildcats did not have a great weekend in Orange County despite losing only once to Providence by four points. The most embarrassing segment of the uninspiring week was an overtime win over then-winless Santa Clara — the Wildcats shot an atrocious 3-of-22 from downtown (Gabe York was 1-of-10 all by himself) and turned the ball over 17 times. The Arizona defense also allowed Jared Brownridge to go off for 44 points (of the team’s 73). The stink didn’t wear off the next day either, as the Wildcats lost to the Friars and are looking like a team that is in rebuilding mode (the Arizona version).
Ernie Kent's First Conference Win At Washington State Earns The Cougs Our Choice as Team of the Week (Rick Bowmer, AP)

Ernie Kent’s First Conference Win At Washington State Earns The Cougs Our Choice as Team of the Week (Rick Bowmer, AP)

  • Best Way to Remind Everyone You are Barely Worth Anyone’s Attention: At this point in the season, every team in the Pac-12 has played a game worth watching except Washington State. The Cougars are still undefeated but one of those wins came against a non-Division I opponent and the best of the batch is a 12-point victory over Northern Arizona. Things will change when the Cougars host Gonzaga on Wednesday night, but a resumption of the status quo will quickly follow when the Cougars follow that one up with games against Portland and Idaho. Ernie Kent’s team is young so there may be some logic in the team’s light scheduling, but most college basketball folks (and maybe even Kent himself) still couldn’t tell you one logical thing about Washington State.
  • Best Patsy: Hopefully the Pac-12 coaches all gave thanks to UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams on Thursday. The Gauchos have already lost to three teams from the conference (Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State) and are likely to lose to another pair (USC on Thursday and Washington later) before the non-conference portion of their schedule is finished. UCSB usually fields a pretty competitive team and these Gauchos were picked to finish second in the Big West, so it may turn out to be a pretty decent team by the end of the season. Their schedule hasn’t been kind, however, as all three of the team’s losses have been to Pac-12 opponents. There will be years where the Gauchos will get to play spoiler (perhaps still this one?) to its bigger regional conference foes, but so far this has not been one of them.
  • Worst Patsy: After getting a measure of revenge against USC yesterday, Monmouth has now beaten both of the big schools in Los Angeles — and has done so rather convincingly. The Hawks have proven to be an excellent team (they also knocked off Notre Dame) to this point, although they did lose to USC in another game this season. But usually losses to Monmouth are the kinds of losses that tend to rear their head when bubble examination is happening. Maybe Monmouth will run the table (or something close) in the NEC and the loss won’t look all that bad in a few months, but both UCLA and USC could theoretically find themselves as bubble candidates ruing their respective losses to the Hawks.
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