Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of the Week: Vol. III

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 16th, 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

Colorado's George King Has The Shooting And The Size To Make NBA Scouts Take Notice

Colorado’s George King Has The Shooting And The Size To Make NBA Scouts Take Notice.

Last week we highlighted the NBA potential of a stretch seven-footer like UCLA’s Thomas Welsh and this week it is Colorado forward George King’s moment in the spotlight. The 6’6″, 220-pounder is shooting 50 percent from behind the three-point arc after making four of his six attempts in the Buffs’ win over BYU and has an NBA body so we have to imagine he is getting looked at a little. The redshirt sophomore has zero track record or pedigree, which makes his efficiency all the more surprising. With all the talk in the NBA of the importance of threes and free throws, what is better than a player who is doing exactly that and little else? And therein lies the rub. King has three-and-defense potential but he currently doesn’t play very much defense and he doesn’t pass much either. He is primarily an offensive player at this point and although he is a gifted shooter, he won’t shoot 50 percent from downtown this season. If he can stay efficient and work hard on becoming a better rebounder and defender, there is no doubt he has NBA ability.

Best Non-Conference Scheduling

UCLA is obligated to play a star-studded non-conference schedule because of who they are but it sure seems like the Bruins are cutting their teeth against a legitimate Sweet Sixteen contender every week. Oh wait… they ARE playing a legitimate Sweet Sixteen contender every week. After an impressive win over Gonzaga in Spokane over the weekend, UCLA now owns two (the other is Kentucky) of the most impressive non-conference wins of any team in the country. Considering two of the team’s three losses were in a preseason tournament halfway across an ocean, we are inclined to believe those wins will vastly outweigh the losses in the eyes of any committee that may or may not evaluate the Bruins for postseason play. The Bruins will likely end up in a lot of bubble discussions in February and there is no doubt these games help teams prepare for the pressure of similar games in the postseason. They aren’t done either. UCLA plays North Carolina in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Best Moral and Actual Victory

Others might disagree with this assessment, but Cal’s gutty win over St. Mary’s was the most important of the week (with apologies to UCLA). The Golden Bears simply could not lose to St. Mary’s at home and expect to be taken seriously as an at-large contender and although it wasn’t pretty, Cal got the win, weathering Tyrone Wallace’s worst game in almost a full calendar year in the process. It was the type of game that does more harm than good and because of an early start, it had all the makings of an upset. But credit the Golden Bears for hanging on and regaining a little momentum. Doubting the Golden Bears is on trend right now but this still feels like a team learning to play together. Jaylen Brown is still inconsistent, Jordan Mathews is a better shooter then he has shown this season and Jabari Bird seems to be finding his footing after a slow start shooting the ball. The team has more than a week to prepare for its trip to Charlottesville to play Virginia, a team they can beat if everything goes right. But they need to win the ones they are expected to first, and that is what they did this weekend.

Worst Start to a Farewell Tour

It Has Not Been The Start Brandon Taylor Must Have Envisioned for his Senior Send Off

It Has Not Been The Start Brandon Taylor Must Have Envisioned for his Senior Send Off.

To say that Brandon Taylor’s senior season at Utah hasn’t gone according to plan is unfortunately under-selling how much the preseason All Pac-12 selection has struggled. Taylor looked overwhelmed in Saturday’s blowout loss to Wichita State, turning the ball over six times and struggling to handle the pressure defense from multiple defenders. The real problem is that this is becoming a recurring issue for Taylor. His turnover rate of 27.5 is the second-highest in the conference, which is a problem because he is playing more than 30 minutes per game. More or less a 40 percent shooter from deep in his first three years, Taylor has made just nine of his first 45 three-pointers and he has already missed four of his first 13 free-throws after missing eight of 56 all of last season. Utah doesn’t have another true point guard so the team is going to ride their senior no matter where he takes them. Considering how hard he has worked to become an all-conference caliber guard, the hope is that these struggles aren’t permanent and that he will turn things around as the season progresses.

Best Sign of Things to Come?

His father and coach had already been asked about his son’s shooting slump to start the season so it was nice to see son answers those questions on a national stage. We are talking about Oregon State’s Wayne and Tres Tinkle of course, the latter of whom lit up Kansas in the first half and finished 5-of-7 from downtown for the game. Ironically, the Beavers are already one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country when it comes to percentages, but it is still the offense that is holding the team back. The big reason why is because they don’t take very many free throws and they don’t shoot very many three-pointers and they play at an excruciatingly slow pace. Surviving on two-point jumpers in half-court sets isn’t going to fly, which is why it is so important that Tinkle becomes a consistent deep threat. He allows the Beavers to stretch the floor and if he can shoot as confidently and successfully as he did against the Jayhawks, the team’s efficiency will get a much-needed bump. The Beavers are going to be one of the best defensive teams in the conference this season and if Tinkle adds another dimension from deep, they could be heard from in March.

Worst End-of-Game Improvisation

After being down by 17 at Boise State with six minutes to play, Oregon fought all the way back to within two as they headed down court with roughly 25 seconds to play. They didn’t have any timeouts so Dana Altman said he tried to set up a pick-and-roll with Kendall Small and Dillon Brooks. Instead, Small gave the ball to Brooks 30 feet away from the hoop. Brooks called for a screener before realizing how little time was left and proceeded to sidestep around his defender and get the ball on the rim while absorbing contact. The shot didn’t fall and regardless of whether or not you think Brooks was fouled, the Ducks’ late game strategy left a lot to be desired. Brooks had been the best player on the floor in the second half and the ball should have been in his hands from the start. Altman, to his credit, shouldered the blame for the lack of a plan and it is somewhat understandable since he is still trying to figure out which of his guys will be healthy enough to play on a given night. But the Ducks’ mad scramble to get back into the game was exciting and showed a lot of moxie for a young team, which is why the last play of the game was such a letdown.

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