These four teams will need to be spending time extra time this week hitting the books.
Arizona – D+
Over the course of 80 minutes against the Bay Area schools, the Wildcats looked like a top-10 team for about, what, eight minutes? Four minutes at the end of the Stanford game and four minutes in the middle of the first half against Cal? But then again, this Wildcats team has made a season out of playing poorly for long stretches and still coming away with wins, even against good teams. Against the Golden Bears, however, that wasn’t the case. And, long-term, that type of play is not going to be enough to max out this team’s ability. Sure, the freshman bigs still have room to grow, but with the core of this team a veteran bunch, at some point you have to take this team at face value; maybe these ‘Cats are destined to underachieve. Then again, I’m also saying this about a team with only three losses in the middle of February.
With Other Arizona Bigs Limited By Circumstance, Angelo Chol Stepped Up Against Stanford (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)
Focus on: Angelo Chol. On Thursday night, with Grant Jerrett out with injury, Brandon Ashley fouled out in 13 minutes and Kaleb Tarczewski ineffective, the sophomore big man earned 24 minutes, the most in his career. And, he came through in a pinch, grabbing eight boards and scoring six points over that stretch. He slid back to just six minutes of action against Cal on Sunday, but it must be comforting to know that he’s available to produce when needed.
Looking ahead: Thursday night, the Wildcats head to Colorado and enter a lion’s den, where the Buffaloes have the chance they’ve been looking forward to for more than a month — to gain revenge for the Debacle in the Desert. But for the Wildcats, they have the opportunity to rip the hearts out of an opponent. We’ll see if they have the killer instinct to do so.
Washington State – D
Against USC on Thursday night, the Cougars played the Trojans to a draw for about 35 minutes before fading down the stretch. At UCLA on Saturday night, they weren’t even that lucky, going more than 10 minutes in the first half without a field goal, not scoring their first two-point field goal for more than 16 minutes, and never really finding themselves in the game. With a four-game losing streak in progress and Ken Bone’s first losing season on the Paloose a distinct possibility, WSU fans are relegated to discussing the head coach’s future with the university.
Focus on: D.J. Shelton. A 6’10” athletic power forward putting up 9.5 rebounds per game? Sure. Nothing unusual about that. But that same guy handing out 11 assists over the course of a pair of games? That’s intriguing. Shelton still can’t put the ball in the basket on a regular basis anywhere around the key, a disturbing trend for a big guy, but he is the team’s most accurate three-point shooter, knocking down 41% of his 39 three-point attempts this year.
Looking ahead: Hosting Oregon State and Oregon this week (albeit in front of a largely empty Beasley Coliseum) likely presents the Cougars with their last best chance at a home sweep this year.
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