Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2014
- Welcome to New Year’s Day! No, not that one where you wake up hung over and buy a new calendar. The one where the newest Pac-12 conference season tips off. We’ve got five games on the slate tonight, so let’s get right to it. First, we got a little bit of a surprise on Wednesday when Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson announced that senior forward Eric Moreland has “fulfilled the requirements of his suspension” (except for, you know, sitting out the 14 games he was suspended for) and will be in uniform tonight when the Beavers visit Colorado (7:00 PM PST, ESPNU). Moreland averaged 9.4 points, 10.6 boards and 2.5 blocks per game last season and will significantly increase the chances that Oregon State gives the Buffaloes problems tonight.
- While that game takes on more intrigue, the game of the night is probably Oregon visiting Utah (5:00 PM PST, Pac-12 Networks). The Utes have played one of the weakest schedules in Division I basketball, but also have largely taken care of business, including a blowout win over rival BYU (a win that doesn’t look quite as impressive now that BYU has dropped a few games). Still, they’ve looked pretty good in getting through that schedule, but beginning tonight there is no more hiding. The undefeated and No. 10 nationally-ranked Ducks visit and will immediately test the Utes’ resolve. For their part, Oregon is still something of an unknown, having earned a handful of good but not earth-shattering wins. We’ll probably know a heck of a lot more about both of these teams by Sunday night.
- The basketball version of The Big Game between Cal and Stanford (6:00 PM PST, Fox Sports 1) is the other big story of the night. Both teams have struggled with injuries this season, but the Cardinal have at least accepted the fact that they’ll be playing without guys like Aaron Bright, Andy Brown and Christian Sanders. The Golden Bears, on the other hand, are without Ricky Kreklow for another month and freshman Jabari Bird is out for “awhile” and not expected to play tonight. With that said, and with the Cardinal playing at home, this is a bigger game for Johnny Dawkins’ squad tonight. The Cardinal can’t afford a loss in this one.
- Wrapping up tonight’s slate, Arizona State will host Washington (5:00 PM PST, ESPNU), while Washington State gets the distinct pleasure of visiting the No. 1 team in the nation – Arizona (7:00 PM PST, Pac-12 Networks) – without the services of its best player in the lineup. DaVonte Lacy remains out following surgery to remove his appendix, meaning the Cougars had better find a way to get some scoring from guys like Royce Woolridge and Que Johnson, or risk suffering a ridiculously lopsided loss in Tucson.
- UCLA and USC won’t tip off their conference play until they face each other on Sunday afternoon (12:00 PST, Fox Sports 1), but former Bruins’ great and current ESPN broadcaster Bill Walton took in his first UCLA game of the Steve Alford era last weekend against Alabama and wasted no time in making his thoughts known. In short, Big Red thinks that the Alford era is already a huge upgrade over the slow and joyless Ben Howland era. But Coach Alford, beware. You still had better win. And fast. And regularly.