Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of the Week: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 4th, 2016

As the rest of us file back for what promises to be a dreary work week, conference play in college basketball is well under way. In the opening weekend, Arizona re-established itself as the team to beat while California reclaimed some of its considerable preseason hype. Washington, a team no one picked to do anything this season, is unbeaten after two games. While Utah, a team several analysts picked to win the conference, is still searching for its first conference victory. The opening weekend of action didn’t reveal anything particularly enlightening about any one team, but it signaled to Pac-12 fans that they are in for a wild couple of months.

Worst Way to Finish Off a Game: There is no way that Utah should have lost to Stanford on Friday night, and especially not at the free throw line. But the conference’s best foul shooting team entering the game made just 11-of-24 freebies, including four key misses down the stretch in regulation and two more in overtime to gift wrap a comeback win for the Cardinal. This loss was an especially tough pill to swallow because the Utes subsequently lost to California on Sunday (despite shooting better than 80 percent from the line, incidentally). A loss in Berkeley is understandable on an at-large resume, but Stanford is expected to finish at the bottom of the conference. Utah is now forced to dig itself out of a self-made 0-2 hole — certainly not the way the team wanted to start the 2016.

Jakob Poetl and the Utes Are Not Off To The Start They Envisioned. (AP)

Jakob Poeltl and the Utes Did Not Start Pac-12 Play The Way  They Envisioned. (AP)

Worst Job of Keeping It Together: At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley looked a little foolish in his ejection from the tail end of the Sun Devils’ weekend loss to Arizona. Hurley’s passion and fire make an impact on his team and are a big reason why Arizona State is overachieving this season, but his team still had a chance to win until his antics erased that with two quick technical fouls. He shouldn’t have to apologize for his fiery personality, as it is a big part of his success as a coach, but it rings somewhat hollow when he simultaneously claims that he “always wants the spotlight on the guys in the game.” Some may argue that there is a fine line between toning it down and losing their edge, but that notion too rings hollow. Hurley should be able to keep the chip on his shoulder without making a spectacle that overshadows his team’s resilience.

Best Disappearing Act: Everyone remembers UCLA center Tony Parker, right? You know, that 6’9″, 260-pound guy who gobbles up everything that comes off the rim and is impossible to stop on the low blocks? Unfortunately, that guy seems to have gone missing. The Bruins are off to a disappointing 0-2 start in conference play with losses to the Washington schools over the weekend. Starting in the loss to North Carolina, Parker has been a foul-prone, turnover machine. Before the last two weeks of action, Parker had failed to score in double-figures in just one game. He has now done so twice in his last three games (six points against McNeese State; seven points against Washington State). When playing well, Parker adds another dimension on both ends of the floor and will be key in determining just how much success the team enjoys this season. Head coach Steve Alford needs to find the version of Parker that dominated Gonzaga to reappear as soon as possible.

Best Start In Spite Of Themselves: It is more than just improbable that Washington is now 2-0 in conference play, it is borderline impossible. First, the Huskies survived UCLA in double overtime on Friday despite fouling everyone in sight and shooting less than 40 percent from the field. As an encore, the Huskies rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat a much better USC team despite shooting less than 35 percent from the field. The Huskies didn’t do it all by themselves, however. Some home-cooking referees allowed Washington to stay in the game on Friday by whistling everyone they could for fouls, and the team’s comeback on Sunday night conveniently coincided with an injury to Trojans’ star Julian Jacobs. But wins are wins and Washington was an underdog in both games. The baby Huskies are going to play in some wild games this season and will probably lose more than they win, but they also showed that they have enough moxie and talent to be counted out.

Somehow, Lorenzo Romar And His Huskies Are Off To A Hot Start Despite Some Not-So-Hot Play.

Somehow, Lorenzo Romar And His Huskies Are Off To A Hot Start Despite Some Not-So-Hot Play.

Worst Timing and Luck: The aforementioned ankle injury to USC’s Julian Jacobs is disheartening on multiple levels. He is the Trojans’ best ball-handler and his injury leaves a sizable hole in the team’s lineup — as evidenced by last night’s collapse against Washington after he departed the game. Jacobs was on his way to a career night when he turned his ankle, but hopefully the injury is mild and he will just need to rest it before returning. The junior has been one of the best players in the conference when healthy, so it is not just a positive for the Trojans but also for Pac-12 hoops fans when he is healthy and doing things like this.

Best Understanding of How to Help His Team: Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle led all scorers in last night’s win over Oregon and he did so despite making just five field goals for the game. The freshman scored nearly half of his 19 points at the free-throw line, something of which he is making a habit. Tinkle ranks second in the Pac-12 in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and converts those opportunities at greater than 80 percent, but he’s in no way a one-trick pony. He can also shoot from deep (33.3%) and is plenty athletic but what separates him from many other freshmen is that he understands how to make his team better. Rather than try to shoot through a slump, Tinkle has already realized that he can help his team immediately by creating free-throw attempts for himself. This strategy helped the Beavers cruise to a conference-opening win over the Ducks and it helps make Tinkle a valuable member of the rotation even when he struggles shooting. Some players are never able to take a step back and recognize what their true value and defining skills are — the coach’s son Tinkle has done it in fewer than two months. And remember, he is only going to get better.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *