Wrapping Up Pac-12 Performance in Thanksgiving Week TournamentsPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 3rd, 2013
The early season exempt tournaments are a great opportunity for teams to get in several games over the course of a few days, often against pretty good competition. By the time these events are over, we begin to have a good idea about the overall quality of teams, how their resume is shaping up, and what they will need to do from here on out. Pac-12 teams had some mixed results over the past week, but below we will take a quick look at how some of the teams from the conference fared in their events.
Arizona – The Wildcats are the one Pac-12 team that had an unquestionably great event. They swept through four games against increasingly tough competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off, capping it off by scoring an impressive win over Duke at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Sean Miller’s club has done everything you want a young team to do early in the year: improve every game, compete hard, and maintain focus, all while piling up the wins. As a result of last week’s performance, Arizona now finds itself at #2 in both major national polls, with two #1 votes in the AP and a single #1 vote in the Coaches poll.
Arizona State – While their in-state rival had a great tournament, the Sun Devils’ weekend at the Wooden Legacy was disastrous. Getting blown out in the opening game against Creighton is one thing; certainly not ideal, but at least against a good team. The problem was that put Arizona State in the consolation bracket with a bunch of teams that would provide little benefit if beaten, but a major strike if defeated by. After knocking off College of Charleston on Friday night and looking solid in the first half against Miami on Sunday, it looked like the Sun Devils would get out of Orange County with just disappointment rather than disaster. But then Jahii Carson turned it over three times and went 0-for-9 in the second half, including a couple of missed layups in the final minute, and Arizona State fell to Miami. Now, with no remaining non-conference games that will do anything to improve their resume, the Sun Devils will head into Pac-12 play with a win over Marquette last week as the lone victory against a team in KenPom’s top 100.
California – Things started out really nicely for the Golden Bears in Maui last week, with a solid win over Arkansas and a strong performance by their front line. Unfortunately, senior Richard Solomon took a finger to the eye late in that game, suffered a corneal abrasion, and missed the Bears’ next two games. They held their own on the glass in both contests, but still flew away from the islands with two straight losses. Now, losses to Syracuse and Dayton are by no means bad losses, but there will be a lot of pressure on Cal to win at Creighton just before Christmas in order to score a signature non-conference win.
Stanford – The Cardinal looked bad for more than half of their Legends Classic semifinal game against Houston in Brooklyn last Monday, but turned it on long enough to advance to the championship game against Pitt where they proceeded to lay an egg. Pitt out-toughed Cardinal for every minute of that one, really turning it on late in the first half to put the game away. While the Cardinal were decent offensively against a good Panthers’ defense, it was once again their own non-existent defense that allowed 1.33 points per possession to Pitt. The Cardinal still have a pair of big non-conference games in a couple weeks — at Connecticut and then against Michigan in Brooklyn a couple days later. Unfortunately, for the Cardinal to have any chance in either of those games, they will need to play defense at a level they have not shown themselves capable of yet this season.
UCLA – The Bruins didn’t play anyone particularly good at the Las Vegas Invitational, with a match-up against a bad Nevada team followed by a game against an overmatched Northwestern team minus its best player. But, they were exciting and they got freshman forward Wanaah Bail available for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery. The Bruins still haven’t really played anybody yet, but stayed tuned, as they have a potentially tough game against UC Santa Barbara tonight and a road trip to Missouri coming next Saturday. We will have a little bit better idea about Steve Alford’s first team in Westwood by this time next week.
USC – It was a 1-2 weekend for the Trojans at the Battle 4 Atlantis, and given the problems with this roster, that’s okay. Pe’Shon Howard scored in double figures three straight times and, in the last of those times, helped his squad earn a good win over a Xavier team that had a really bad weekend. But the biggest news out of the Bahamas for the program was the chickens coming home to roost for Andy Enfield following his untoward comments regarding UTEP and its head coach, Tim Floyd. The much-awaited UTEP/USC match-up never materialized, but there was a confrontation between the coaches nonetheless. It’s not a good look for Enfield, but at the very least, he got USC basketball in the news, something the team’s play on the court won’t accomplish much this season.
Washington State – The Cougars went 1-2 at the Old Spice Classic, but they were competitive in every game. They are now at 3-4 on the season, but if DaVonte Lacy ever gets some help from anybody else this year (he’s now averaging 21 points per night – nobody else on the squad is averaging double figures), this team could possibly finish a few slots up from the basement.