Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on March 1st, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

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While the Sports Illustrated story on the UCLA program has been the big story in recent days, we’ve written about that elsewhere (check out Evan Jacoby’s take on the article here, and my opinion here) and we’ll stick to talking about on-court action here today.

The biggest on the court story this week was Colorado knocking off California on Sunday afternoon, leaving the Bears a game back in the loss column of conference leader Washington. The Huskies took care of their business last week, coming back from a 13-point deficit midway through the second half to knock off Washington State. As a result, a UW win tonight at USC (which seems almost a given – the Huskies will be a significant favorite) will earn them at least a share of the conference title. And if they back that up with a win at UCLA on Saturday, they’ll earn their second regular season conference title in four years. If they slip up in one of those games, the Golden Bears can force a tie by knocking off Stanford at Maples Pavilion Sunday in the final conference game of the regular season, and in that case, Cal would also earn the #1 seed in the conference tournament by virtue of their win at Washington in January.

Behind the leaders, there are three teams fighting for the two remaining first-round byes in the conference tournament; Arizona, Colorado and Oregon all sit with five conference losses. Arizona has an advantage over the others, however, in that they have only one remaining game – against lowly Arizona State on Sunday afternoon. Oregon and Colorado, meanwhile, will go a long way towards breaking their tie tonight, as the Ducks host the Buffaloes in Eugene.

While whichever of these three teams winds up as the #5 seed will have the opportunity to breeze through USC in the opening round game, the addition of an extra obstacle in the way prior to the Pac-12 quarterfinals will harm that team’s chances at running the table and coming away with the Pac-12’s automatic bid.

Jesse Perry, Arizona

Arizona Took Care Of Business Against The Los Angeles Schools And Can Now Earn A First-Round Bye (Chris Morrison/US Presswire)

Postseason Prognosis

And that automatic bid will certainly be a very important thing for most teams in this conference. At this point, Cal looks like a pretty safe bet to earn an at-large bid, although they don’t want to press their luck with a loss at Stanford and a loss in the quarters of the conference tourney. They’ve got the best RPI in the conference (see all the numbers below) and they’ve got a couple of top 50 wins (both over Oregon, so take those with a grain of salt). While it looks like they’re safe, if they finish the season poorly, they’ll have no right to complain if they are left out of the eventual bracket.

Washington, meanwhile, seems to be in pretty good shape as well – right now at least. However, they’re towards the back of the bus right now and if a handful of teams come out of the woodwork to steal bids over the next couple of weeks, Washington’s margin for error could get mighty slim.

As for the rest of the bunch, there are some who continue to say that teams like Arizona and Colorado are right on the bubble, but looking at the numbers, they’d do well to just go ahead and win the Pac-12 Tournament if they have any real designs on an NCAA bid. Oregon’s got the best RPI numbers, but they’re 0-5 against top 50 teams. Colorado’s got a couple top 50 wins (over Oregon and Cal – unfortunately, if they beat Oregon this weekend, it will probably drop the Ducks out of the top 50 and take CU back to just 1-3 against the top 50), but they’ve also got four bad losses and an RPI that’s of no use either.

Team Record RPI SOS vs. RPI 1-25 vs. RPI 1-50 vs. RPI +100
Washington 20-8 53 80 0-2 1-5 17-0
California 23-7 36 102 0-2 2-3 17-2
Arizona 21-9 71 111 0-2 1-4 17-1
Oregon 20-8 49 77 0-1 0-5 18-1
Colorado 17-9 77 96 0-2 2-3 13-4


So, really, the only chance I see for the Pac-12 to shoehorn three different teams into the bracket is this: (1) California and Washington win their final games of the regular season this weekend, (2) then they both take care of business in the quarterfinals, with one of them advancing to the Pac-12 final while the other loses in the semis, (3) whoever the opponent is in the Pac-12 final wins the championship, earning the automatic bid and (4) bid stealers are kept to a minimum and both Cal and Washington squeak into the field on Selection Sunday, along with the conference champion.

Lastly, one of the best college basketball reads every week is John Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths at Basketball Prospectus. Aside from giving some insights on the 14 best conferences in the nation, he lays out the margin between average points scored and average points allowed per possession, a good measure of a team’s overall strength, throwing out the luck factor.

While the eye test may tell you that Washington has been the best team in the conference, a look at the stats shows that they are only outscoring their opposition by 0.07 points per possession, while Cal is outscoring its opponents by double that, 0.14 points per possession (for comparison’s sake, Kentucky is outscoring its opponents by 0.25 points per possession – an absurdly good number). In fact, the Huskies are fifth in the conference using this metric, behind even UCLA. In fact, of Washington’s 13 conference wins, five came by four points or less, with another five where the margin was less than ten.

According to Ken Pomeroy, Washington has been the 29th luckiest team in the country (what a great time we live in, where luck can be accounted for by statistics). Long story short, the Huskies may go into the conference tournament as the regular season champion, but they need not necessarily be the favorite to win the automatic bid.

Tony Wroten, Washington

Tony Wroten Is Well On His Way To Earning Freshman Of The Year Honors, But Will He Take Down the POY As Well? (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, I was pretty well convinced that this Tony Wroten for conference POY nonsense was finally dead. Then today I see that ESPN’s “experts” released their picks for each conference POY and COY and of the 13 people registering their opinion, a whopping seven of them (including Dick Vitale) were wrong enough to pick Wroten.

Three picked Jared Cunningham, and then one each selected Terrence Ross, Devoe Joseph and Jorge Gutierrez. We’ve been down this road before, so I won’t beat a dead horse too much, but while Wroten’s traditional numbers look just fine (16.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG), just digging even a little bit deeper reveals some significant problems with his all around game: turnovers on 22% of his possessions, using far too many possessions in an inefficient manner, his insistence on continuing to shoot threes (poorly at that) and his poor field goal percentages.

Still, after last weekend, you can understand why some are still searching for somebody to throw their support behind. Going into last week, it looked like Gutierrez and Ross might be the favorites. So what did each player do in the second-to-last week of the year? Gutierrez went 0-for-7 from the field and failed to score in a loss at Colorado, while Ross fouled out in 21 minutes against Washington State and had as many turnovers (two) as points. Certainly the wrong time for both players to turn in their worst performances of the year, but their overall body of work still leave them as the top two choices for POY.

Coach of the Year Watch

I’ve long since conceded the fact that Tony Wroten will win Freshman of the Year, so we’ll skip that for the week and take a look at the COY race.

Looking at the same poll from ESPN, we see that five different coaches received at least one vote, with Tad Boyle leading the way with six votes, Mike Montgomery earning three, Sean Miller getting a couple and Lorenzo Romar and Dana Altman each earning a single vote.

First, before we get into the credentials for each coach, can we just recognize for a minute just how good a set of coaches the Pac-12 has? Any one of those coaches would be a seriously desirable candidate for just about any job in the country, which makes the struggles in this conference all the more puzzling. As for the award this year, it is hard to argue with Boyle. His team lost its four leading scorers from last season and was picked to finish around tenth in the league by most people. Instead, with two games remaining, they’re among the best teams in the conference.

It is somewhat surprising that Romar hasn’t received more consideration for this award, seeing as he had to replace four major senior contributors last season, lost senior leader Scott Suggs to an injury before the season, dealt with chemistry issues in the non-conference slate, and now has his team on the verge of a conference title. Any of the five deserve consideration for the award, but for my money, Boyle and Romar (at present in that order) are the leaders.

Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Lorenzo Romar Has His Huskies In First Place, But Is Getting No Love For Coach Of The Year (Getty Images)

Power Rankings

There was only one change in our weekly power rankings this week, as USC finally (and rightfully) reclaimed the last spot in the conference from Utah after spending an inexplicable three weeks ranked 11th. The top of the conference is still California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Colorado.

Weekly Honors

While we gave Washington our Team of the Week honors for the second straight week (and fourth time on the season), we continued our improbable streak of seemingly awarding a new Player of the Week every week. To this point, in 16 weeks, only one player (Jared Cunningham) has taken home our POTW honor more than once. This week, it was Kyle Fogg’s first chance earn our award. Similarly, in 16 weeks of handing out a Newcomer of the Week award, we’ve named 12 different players, with Tony Wroten earning it five times and Carlon Brown twice. This week, it was USC’s Byron Wesley.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 29th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 16th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 23-7 (13-4): The Golden Bears may have suffered a disappointing 13-point loss to Colorado on Sunday, but I still have Cal on top for a couple of reasons. First, while Cal’s loss was bad, Washington fell by 18 at Colorado earlier this season. Secondly, even though the Huskies are ahead of the Golden Bears by half a game in the Pac-12 standings, California still has three more wins than the Dawgs. Group in the fact that the Golden Bears don’t have any glaring bad losses on their slate, I still think they are the better team right now. Up Next: 3/4 @ Stanford

2. Washington, 20-8 (13-3): Washington all but guaranteed itself an NCAA bid with their 59-55 win in Pullman last Saturday. The Huskies should make it official by splitting their trip to Los Angeles, but even if they found a way to lose to USC, I think they would still be good. The big question is whether or not the Huskies will avoid one of the “First Four” games. Right now I would say they are safe, but they need a good couple of weeks in LA to be assured of that as well. Up Next: 3/1 @ USC

3. Oregon, 20-8 (11-5): The Ducks sure looked like an NCAA Tournament team on Sunday, but they still remain just outside the field of 68 in most projections. Whether it was Garrett Sim, Devoe Joseph, or Olu Ashaolu, the Ducks were making everything they threw up, which they will need to do if they want to advance in whatever postseason tournament they play in. The Ducks led by ten points against feisty rival Oregon State with just 5:50 remaining, but the Beavers stormed back to within a point with one second left on a Jared Cunningham slam dunk that followed Challe Barton’s three that went off the right rim to try and tie the game. The next Oregon inbound pass wasn’t fully covered however, and Oregon ran down the clock and ran out of Gill Coliseum with a 74-73 win. With the win, the Ducks have posted back-to-back 20-win seasons. Up Next: 3/1 vs. Colorado

Senior guard Garrett Sim, who grew up a Beaver fan, was booed every time he touched the ball after elbowing Jared Cunningham early in Sunday's Civil War. Sim finished with 25 points. (credit: Brent Wojahn)

4. Arizona, 21-9 (12-5): It wasn’t easy at times for the Cats, but at the end of the weekend they found themselves with a pair of wins over the LA schools in Tucson. On Thursday it was a solid 70-54 win over the visiting Trojans, solid because they struggled at times with the tough SC defense back in January at the Galen Center. Two days later it was a nail biter all the way through, with Arizona finally prevailing for a 65-63 win. Up Next: 3/4 @ Arizona State Read the rest of this entry »

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Tubby Smith Needs To Catch A Break

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 24th, 2012

Winters in Minnesota are all about highs and lows not just temperature wise, but also with their basketball team. The Golden Gophers had their lows during the Dan Monson era from 2000 to 2007 because they only made it to one NCAA tournament. It wasn’t all Monson’s fault as he was trying to rebuild a program dealing with probation assessed due to the actions of Clem Haskins, the prior coach. But when Tubby Smith was brought in from Kentucky to replace Monson, the fans had certain expectations.  Smith did not disappoint as he led the Gophers to the Big Dance three out of the first four seasons in Minneapolis. The fan base could feel the momentum shift at the turn of the decade after some tough winters. Smith recruited a top 25 class and the athleticism of the players was very obvious on the court. But similar to the temperatures, the program dropped again after those high points over the last couple seasons. Arguments could be made that Tubby Smith’s coaching has not been up to par but several events that led to the Gopher letdown were out of his control– on and off the court. Let’s examine a couple of those factors and understand how Smith dealt with them.

Tubby Smith Has Had A Rough Time With Injuries To His Star Players


The stage was set for potential disappointment in 2010 when 6’8″ forward Royce White transferred to Iowa State. White joined other transfers such as Michigan State’s Chris Allen to play for Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones. White is having a fantastic season – 12.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 5.0 APG. In addition to White, the list of transfers includes Devoe Joseph to Oregon and Colton Iverson to Colorado State.  Joseph has Oregon sitting on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid in a weak Pac-12 conference but his services would have certainly helped Tubby Smith’s team. He is averaging 16.3 PPG and Smith caught a fair amount of heat in 2011 when Joseph chose to leave Minnesota. Royce White’s case was a little different because of several off the court issues but nonetheless, Smith was counting on him to have a good career in Minneapolis and it fell short. Smith’s recruiting classes were very good and the performance of his ex-players shows that he knew what he was doing but for several other reasons, he couldn’t hold the team together. Is he to blame for all of the transfers? Not necessarily. Players don’t always pan out the way you expect them to, but the best you can do is bring them into the program and try to keep them away from trouble and focused on basketball.

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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.


Washington's Win Over Arizona On Saturday Gave The Huskies Reason For Celebration (Elaine Thompson/AP)

What to Watch For

There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.

Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.

As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.

Player of the Year Watch

There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 23rd, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 15th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 22-6 (12-3): The Golden Bears appear to have but locked up an NCAA at-large bid with their sweep of the Oregon schools last week. Despite trailing 71-64 to Oregon on Thursday with just 6:20 remaining, the Bears battled back to take a 76-75 lead with 1:41 left. From there it was anyone’s game, with the final outcome not being decided until E.J. Singler’s three at the buzzer missed, giving Cal the 83-80 victory. Two days later it was Oregon State looking to pull the upset, and for 20 minutes it looked like a possibility. But after trailing by two at halftime, Cal came out with a 27-13 run to start the second half, en route to a 77-63 win. Up Next: 2/23 @ Utah

2. Washington, 19-8 (12-3): The Huskies got the quality win they needed to lock up an NCAA bid on Saturday against Arizona. After defeating the Cats by two down in the desert earlier this year, Arizona came into Seattle hungry for the upset. Arizona held around all night and was within three with 11:51 remaining, but a 17-9 run over the next six minutes and change put away thoughts of an upset. The final was 79-70, making the Huskies 2-0 on the week. Up Next: 2/25 @ Washington State

3. Oregon, 19-8 (10-5): We have already talked about Oregon’s heartbreaking loss against Cal, but the Ducks bounced back in fine fashion three days later against Stanford. After trailing for most of the game, Singler hit a three with 2:47 remaining to put the Ducks up, 66-64. Both teams had plenty of chances down the stretch to either expand the lead or tie the game, but the score remained the same until Devoe Joseph knocked down a pair of free throws with four seconds left. Before the free throws, Chasson Randle had two chances to tie the game, but his jumper and layup missed badly. Up Next: 2/26 @ Oregon State

Are you not entertained!? (Credit: Paul Sakuma)

4. Arizona, 19-9 (10-5): The Wildcats decided to make things much more interesting regarding the NCAA Tournament with a lackluster trip to the state of Washington. Arizona had a chance to really make a good impression on the selection committee with a big win against Washington State and an upset of Washington, but a four-point win against the Cougars and a nine-point loss to the Huskies could have the opposite effect. A 3-0 finish to the regular season is now necessary for the Cats to stay on the right side of the bubble. Up Next: 2/23 vs. USC Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 2.17.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 2012

  1. And then there were four. It may not be official, but Oregon’s late-game collapse against California more or less eliminates the Ducks from contention for the regular season title, leaves them currently running fifth in a race for the four opening round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament, and puts a serious dent in their already tenuous claim on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With five and a half minutes remaining, the Ducks led on the road against conference-leading Cal, by a score of 73-65. Over the remaining 13 Duck offensive possessions, they turned the ball over six times (part of their 22 turnovers on the night), hit three jumpers (two of which were increasingly improbable deep Devoe Joseph threes) and made a couple technical free throws. Meanwhile, Cal scored on 11 of their final 13 possessions and pulled out a three-point win in front of the home faithful. Joseph wound up with a career-high 33 points, but in the end was outdueled by his former Minnesota teammate Justin Cobbs, who had a career-high of his own, with 28 points, while also adding eight assists and four steals. The win keeps Cal in a first place tie.
  2. Washington remains tied with Cal atop the conference standing after running out to a big lead in the first half against Arizona State then coasting home to victory in the second half. Terrence Ross got things started early with five points on the Huskies’ first two trips down the floor on his way to a game-high 18 points and his team raced out to an 18-point halftime lead. The lead got as high as 24 points on a handful of occasions before Lorenzo Romar called off his dogs and allowed Arizona State to post a respectable final margin of just eight points. Washington expects a bigger challenge on Saturday afternoon when they host Arizona in a game that will have a big impact on the conference standings.
  3. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had a much tougher go of things on Thursday night, going into Pullman and getting a tough fight from Washington State. With just a minute remaining, the Cougs found themselves deadlocked with Arizona, until a Jesse Perry three-point play gave the ‘Cats the lead. Then Perry fouled Brock Motum at the three-point line with just 21 seconds left, sending Motum to the line to shoot three free throws. However Motum, who led Washington State with a dominating 28-point performance, was only able to convert one of the three, sending Ken Bone’s team into foul-mode. The Wildcats made their freebies down the stretch and escaped with their fifth road win of the conference season.
  4. The other game of the night was a rematch of a classic quadruple-overtime game earlier in the year between Stanford and Oregon State. This one wasn’t quite as enthralling, but it was still an up-tempo, exciting ball game, even though the Cardinal needed 20 less minutes to knock off the Beavers. The Stanford backcourt led the way, with Chasson Randle going for 24 points (including six-of-seven three-point shooting) and Aaron Bright adding 20 (four-of-nine from deep) outdueling Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham, who had 22 points and added four threes of his own.
  5. In the wake of UCLA’s easy win over cross-town rival USC Wednesday night, everything is hunky-dory for Bruin fans. Or not. There are complaints about who Ben Howland chose to use and for how many minutes. He should have given some of the other guys more time, and yet at the same time, there are complaints that he didn’t pour it on even more at the end. There is hand-wringing over who might be the next Bruin to transfer out of the program. And, unbelievably, there are complaints that he has signed and is still pursuing five-star recruits, as if that is somehow a strike against him. Howland definitely deserves plenty of blame for likely missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, but some of this stuff is plain old ridiculous.
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Checking In On… The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on February 16th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

We have heard it all before. The Pac-12 is down. The Pac-12 is terrible. The Pac-12 is a one-bid league. The Pac-12 sucks. There’s some relative truth in some of those and in others, not so much, but one thing is for sure as we sit here with three weeks remaining the regular season and five teams within a game of the regular season title. The Pac-12 is tight. Going into this week, California and Washington are tied for first (with the Golden Bears holding the tiebreaker between the two teams on the strength of their win in Seattle a couple of weeks back), while Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona are all lurking just one game back. We have got a race.

California, Harper Kamp, Jorge Gutierrez

Cal, Currently In First Place, May Have The Best Chance At An At-Large Bid To The NCAA Tournament (George Nikitin/AP)

Aside from a couple of games between top five teams last Thursday night, when Oregon throttled Washington and Arizona took care of Colorado, every other team in the top grouping took care of business against lesser opponents. In fact, looking at the standings right now, the top six teams in the conference are all riding winning streaks while the bottom six are all headed in the wrong direction. At least it now appears that the top of the conference is gaining some separation from the bottom. California, Washington, and Oregon all saw their RPIs improve this week, while Colorado and Arizona saw their number drop a bit, but at least now all five of those teams are at least in the at-large conversation. Our own Zach Hayes has California and Arizona in the tournament in his latest bracket, while Colorado, Washington and Oregon are all among the first eight out. Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket has the Bears and the ‘Cats in as well, with the Huskies and Ducks among the first eight out. Andy Glockner, however, is a bit more pessimistic about the conference’s chances, putting just California in the field with Arizona among the first four out and teams like Seton Hall, North Carolina State, Northwestern, and Xavier all currently higher in the pecking order than the Pac-12 schools.

What to Watch For

With all of the above in mind, every game is going to be critical from here on out for those five teams at the top of the standings. They all need to not only beat up on teams 6-12, but it is time for a couple or three of them to differentiate themselves from the others. We thought last week that Washington might be on the verge of doing that, and then they went out and got blown out by Oregon. Meanwhile, California, and Arizona are the hot teams this week with the Golden Bears on a three-game streak and the Wildcats on a four-game run. Both will find significant tests awaiting them this week, but Cal has the benefit of facing their tests in the comfort of Haas Pavilion, against Oregon Thursday night and then Oregon State on Saturday night. Arizona has to go on the road, and they head to Washington State tomorrow night before a Saturday afternoon marquee matchup with Washington.

Washington, meanwhile, will also have to take care of business against tenth-place Arizona State on Thursday while Oregon travels to Stanford on Sunday afternoon. The Palo Alto trip could be a problem for the Ducks, especially coming off of the big game Thursday night. The other game involving one of the top five schools comes Saturday afternoon, when Colorado travels to Utah. The Buffaloes have won just two conference games on the road thus far, and those came against the teams currently holding down two of the bottom three spots in the standings; if they can handle the Utes, it will become three wins against the three bottom teams in the standings.

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Checking In On… The Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 9th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

Last week in this space, we mentioned that California, of all the teams in the conference, was the one team with a pretty good argument for consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sure, they had no significant wins on their schedule, but they were ranked 30th in the RPI, a strong enough number that could have earned them a bid. However, the Golden Bears were upset at home by Arizona on Thursday night, and when the RPI numbers came out on Monday, Cal had dropped to 48th (notably, the Wildcats jumped up from 85th to 62nd). This little factoid shows two things: first, and perhaps most important, the RPI rankings are fluid at this point in the season; a good win or a bad loss (and for that matter, good wins and bad losses from previous opponents on your schedule) can have a significant effect on your ranking, especially for teams on the ubiquitous bubble. Secondly, it shows just how slim the margin of error for Pac-12 teams is. With no significant wins to fall back on, any team in the conference that hopes to earn legitimate at-large consideration needs to string together some wins here down the stretch and slowly but surely bump those RPI numbers up.

If you’re looking at it from a conference-wide perspective, the best thing that can happen for the league is for a handful of teams to distance themselves from the middle of the Pac. If, for instance, Washington (current conference leader, RPI of 76), Arizona and California were to get on a roll going down the stretch and consistently off teams like say, Colorado, Oregon, and Stanford, it is still possible that the conference could have three different teams with fairly strong RPIs to help make their case for inclusion in the Big Dance. Of course, those strong RPIs will likely be just about the only significant chip in their corner when those arguments get made. One last note, before we put away all mentions of the RPI for a week, just as an example of how silly it is, Washington swept the Los Angeles schools this week, and their RPI actually dropped, from 72 to 76.



Cal's Loss To Arizona And Subsequent Drop In The RPI Is Nothing For Golden Bear Fans To Cheer About

What to Watch For

The two biggest clashes of the weekend come on Thursday night, as Colorado travels to Arizona and Washington goes to Oregon. Arizona caught fire on the road last week and now they get a chance to extend their two-game winning streak against the Rocky Mountain schools, with the Buffaloes getting the first crack. Colorado rides a two-game winning streak as well, but they have struggled on the road this year winning just one of their first four conference road games with the lone win coming against a depleted USC team. An hour later on Thursday night, we get one of the better rivalry games in the conference, as Washington heads to Oregon for a battle that will help determine who is atop the standings on Friday morning. The Huskies are riding a five-game winning streak and are currently a game up on the Ducks, but despite U-Dub’s 3-1 road record in conference play, it is easy to still be a little bit skeptical of their ability to go on the road and win games. If they can do that this week in what is likely their toughest remaining test on the schedule, you have to be much more inclined to be Husky believers.

Elsewhere around the conference, both California and Stanford will make the road trip to the Los Angeles schools, where each should be significant favorites against USC but slight underdogs to UCLA; Stanford faces the Bruins on Thursday, while Cal makes the trip to the Sports Arena Saturday afternoon.

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, we essentially narrowed the field here down to four players: Terrence Ross, Jorge Gutierrez, Jared Cunningham, and (reluctantly) Tony Wroten. The biggest concern we had about Cunningham’s candidacy was the fact that, despite his conference-leading 18.0 point per game average and other excellent numbers (of both the traditional and tempo-free variety), his team was still below the .500 mark in conference. That prompted Doug Tammaro, the Media Relations Director at Arizona State to send us the following list of Pac-12 Player of the Year award winners compared with his team’s Pac-10 finish and postseason invitation. In short, of the 19 winners in the last 18 years (in 1994-95, there were co-winners), only twice has the POTY winner come from a team that has not earned an NCAA invitation. And, interestingly enough, both of those times the player was a Sun Devil: Ike Diogu in 2004-05 and Eddie House in 1999-2000. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Washington at Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2012

Looking at the rest of the Pac-12 slate, it’s tough to find a bigger game than the one coming up tonight in Eugene. That’s where first place Washington meets fourth place Oregon in a game with huge conference crown implications. For the visiting Huskies, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but they need every good win they can get if they want to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side is Oregon, who are losers of its last two games against upper-half conference teams. Not only does that create seperation between the Ducks and the top of the Pac, but it also gives those teams tiebreakers over the Ducks for Pac-12 Tournament seeding. Obviously, a win tonight would be huge for the Ducks. While the ship for an at-large bid has sailed, the Ducks need to do everything they can down the stretch to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. That would mean a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney, giving Oregon a solid shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. There’s no better time to start that journey than tonight.

Oregon guard Devoe Joseph leads the Ducks with 15.8 PPG. (credit: Eric Evans)

If Oregon is to have a chance in this one, it will need to shoot the ball better than it did in the first meeting between these two teams. In that New Year’s Eve ESPN2 affair, the Ducks shot just 21.7% from behind the arc. Guard Devoe Joseph was targeted and shut down by the Husky defense, going 0-5 from three and scoring just four points overall. In order to contend with the plethora of Husky sharpshooters (C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, and Terrence Ross, to name a few), Joseph needs to have a huge night shooting the ball; Not to mention Johnathan Loyd and Garrett Sim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2012

Oregon at Colorado, February 4, 7 PM PST, ROOT-NW/ROOT-RM

After both the Ducks and the Buffaloes took care of business on Thursday night, they sit tied with California a game back of Washington in the Pac-12. And provided the Ducks can get to Boulder from Salt Lake City (their original flight on Friday morning was cancelled due to weather), we should be in for a good fight for Saturday evening. While Colorado has yet to lose a Pac-12 game in their Coors Event Center (aka, the Foam Dome), the Ducks have been the best road team in the conference thus far, winning four of their five tests away from Eugene. However, the combination of the travel problems that Oregon is experiencing and the 5300-foot elevation in Boulder combine to give Dana Altman and his crew a unique challenge. CU head coach Tad Boyle hasn’t shied away from giving some credit to the elevation for his team’s success at home, but whether it is physical or psychological, there is no doubt that a significant advantage exists for at home. The Buffaloes have won their six conference games at home by an average of 28 points, compared with a 1-3 record away from home and the three losses coming by an average of almost 15 points. At home, the Buffs have scored 1.12 points per possession and held conference opponents to a stingy 0.85 points per possession; those numbers get flipped on the road to just 0.93 points per offensive possession while allowing a more reasonable 1.01 points per defensive possession.

Coors Event Center, Colorado

The Combination Of Some Rough Travel And The Coors Event Center Could Spell Road Trouble For Oregon

Altman’s crew, however, has been excellent on the road so far this season, handing losses to both Arizona schools, as well as Washington State and Utah. Altman credits his team’s maturity for their play away from home (the team is the 15th most experienced team in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy) and Boyle sees their mental toughness as their biggest road asset as well. Another significant strength for the Ducks is their ability to not only get to the free throw line on a regular basis offensively, but also to prevent their opponents from getting to the line. The Ducks are in the top 50 nationally in FTA-to-FGA ratio, setting up an interesting conflict, as the Buffaloes rank 20th nationally in their offensive FTA-to-FGA ratio; in short, the Buffs want to attack the opposition and get to the line on a regular basis, while the Ducks want to play solid defense without fouling. Whichever team is most successful in getting to the line may earn an advantage in an otherwise remarkably even matchup.

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