Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of The Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 8th, 2015

With notable results filtering in throughout the week, the complexion of the Pac-12 has undergone significant change in the last seven days. Here’s a look at some of the highlights — and lowlights — of recent action.

Best Audition for NBA Scouts: Most of the NBA’s attention has been on Tony Parker this season, but it has been sophomore seven-footer Thomas Welsh who has been UCLA’s best offensive player and rim protector. Welsh logged back-to-back double-doubles against Kentucky and Long Beach State and is shooting 62 percent from the field — some five percentage points better than Parker even though the senior attempts nearly twice as many shots at the rim. Furthermore, Welsh has been close to automatic on 15-foot jumpers this season, shooting better than 60 percent on such attempts. NBA teams will always find a place for a legitimate big man who can stretch the floor with a mid-range game. If Welsh can keep it up, he will get plenty of attention from scouts throughout the season.

Thomas Welsh Was Massive On Both Ends Of The Court Thursday

Thomas Welsh Has Been Arguably UCLA’s Best Player At This Point In The Season

Best Travel Experience: Arizona wasn’t supposed to beat Gonzaga in Spokane, not with Kaleb Tarczewski sidelined with foot issues and especially not when trailing by double-figures at halftime. But Gabe York and Allonzo Trier sparked the offense; Dusan Ristic held his own inside against Domantas Sabonis; and Sean Miller’s team played its trademark stingy defense down the stretch. The result was one of the most impressive road wins of the young season for any team and the rise of a notion that maybe Arizona won’t need to spend this year “rebuilding” after all. If its defense can remain as ruthlessly efficient as it has been and some of the underclassmen continue to develop, this team will be there again late in March.

Worst Travel Experience: Oregon left the friendly climes of Eugene for the first time this season, but a trip to Sin City didn’t quite go according to plan. Instead the Ducks were greeted rudely by UNLV, who buried the unsuspecting team under a barrage of three-pointers while harassing it into 15 turnovers. If there is one subtle flaw in Oregon’s roster, it’s a profound lack of of experience from top to bottom, especially as injuries continue to sideline key rotation players. The Ducks have shown a knack for gaining fuel from the atmosphere at Matthew Knight Arena, which will makes stealing road wins very difficult for visitors (just 10 losses in four seasons). But road games have been the more pressing recent issue. If the Ducks want to be considered legitimate conference title contenders, they will need to win on the road with some degree of regularity.

Worst Audition for NBA Scouts: Going against a prominent frontcourt was a great chance for the rest of the country to get to know Washington State’s human double-double Josh Hawkinson. Instead, Hawkinson was nearly invisible against Gonzaga last week, even as his team scrapped and clawed with the Bulldogs before falling by nine points. The sophomore has been very productive in his second season in Pullman, making it likely that some NBA scouts already know his name. However, four points on just one field goal in 25 minutes is not going to help his case much, particularly since the Zags were Washington State’s first capable opponent. Hawkinson will surely have better days against legitimate competition in the Pac-12 down the road, and if anything, his team’s pluck in spite of the no-show gives hope that the Cougars might actually be competitive when league play arrives. Still, he will need all the help he can get from his teammates.

Best Way to Make an Early Impression: Things didn’t look good after the season-opening loss to Sacramento State (with his father in the stands, no less), but Bobby Hurley quietly has gotten his Arizona State team to play a brand of intense and energetic basketball. The Sun Devils are not particularly good offensively, but they still stomped a good Texas A&M team over the weekend by playing some suffocating defense and getting off to quick starts in both halves. The team now has two quality wins on its resume (NC State is the other), with Hurley’s coaching standing as an obvious reason for the overachievement. Arizona State is far from perfect and is going to be an ugly team to watch on the offensive end at times, but they are clearly more dangerous than expected. Now, if Hurley can find a way to beat Kentucky in Lexington next Saturday…

Bobby Hurley Has Made An Immediate Impact In His First Season At Arizona State

Worst Job of Convincing Us Things Are Going to Get Better: The buzz surrounding California lost some luster when the team lost twice in a row in Las Vegas, but things were supposed to settle down again before they traveled all the way across the country to play Virginia later this month. No such luck. The anxiety is going nowhere after the Golden Bears trailed Seattle University midway through the second half last Tuesday before needing overtime to handle a middling Wyoming team over the weekend. Letdowns on the road will happen to young teams, but the Bears’ continuing struggles to gel offensively and inconsistent defensive efforts are discouraging. There is still plenty of time and this team is way too talented to struggle all season, but early predictions of conference supremacy in Berkeley seem a little farfetched nearly a month into the season.

Best Shame-Free Scheduling: People very briefly paid attention to Colorado this season when the Buffaloes tipped off the college basketball season by losing to Iowa State in a nationally-televised matchup. In the three weeks since, no one has much cared about the progression of Tad Boyle’s group because of a weak schedule — Colorado has played seven consecutive teams currently situated outside the top 135 of KenPom’s rankings. Advanced statistics indicate that the Buffaloes have a chance to surprise this season, and that very well may be true. Still, it would be nice to see the Colorado offense succeed against a team like Arizona or Utah before we buy into the notion that they are one of the best four or five teams in the conference. Every school  schedules patsies, but not every school schedules so many. There is certainly no shame in Colorado’s scheduling game.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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