There were quite a few teams around the conference that, for whatever reason, we were unable to get a real peg on in non-conference play. Maybe the level of competition was low, or new guys were getting used to new roles, or injuries and suspensions changed the roster. But now that we’re into conference play, there is no longer anyplace to hide. After just a weekend of action, we’ve started to get a read on two teams that had previously proved inscrutable. Meanwhile, we’ve also seen a couple of teams that now have us more confused than ever. Below, we’ll take a look at all four of those squads with some of the explanations behind each.
Opening weekend of conference play was enlightening in these two cases.
- Utah – After the loss at Boise State in which the Utes looked good, you felt like you still didn’t really know this team. Soon afterward, there was their blowout win over BYU, which, to be honest, felt a little fluky, didn’t it? So we came into Pac-12 play maybe hoping that the Utes were going to be legitimate, but not really having anything to back that up. After an opening weekend home stand that finished with one in the good column and one in the bad, we’ve got to start getting used to the fact that the Utes are going to be a factor worth talking about (and worth watching) in the Pac-12. We knew about Jordan Loveridge, but it is becoming more and more apparent that Delon Wright is the “fill-in-your-hyperbole here” guy. Just last week, when national columnists were naming all-Pac-12 teams for the non-conference schedule, Wright was routinely overlooked. But this dude – for those of you who have still not made yourself acquainted with his game – is legit. He’s good enough that, when describing his game, it is easy to be torn between deciding whether to first mention his athleticism or his innate feel for the game. Throw in a full rotation that has nice bits and pieces most of the way down the bench – including in the coach’s seat – and, while we still want to see just how different the road Mr. Hyde is from the home Dr. Jekyll, it is about time to start taking these Utes seriously.
- California – Down Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow and heading across the Bay to face rival Stanford in their Pac-12 opener, the Golden Bears appeared to be walking into an ambush. But they’ve got a couple big weapons of their own that will keep this team competitive throughout the rest of the regular season. First, Mike Montgomery. You may have heard of him. He can coach a little. And against most of the coaches in this conference, he’ll provide his team with a mismatch in the coaching battle. The other is the ever-elusive rare breed in modern-day college basketball – the senior point guard, or Justin Cobbs, in this case. In his fifth year of college basketball and in his third season as a starter for Cal, he’s seen it all. So when he looks up at the under-four timeout and sees his team down in an unfriendly environment, he’s not going to be dissuaded. Late Thursday night, he took over the game by drilling step-back jumpers, getting to the line, and dropping dimes when needed. Monty’s genius will go a long way towards keeping Cal in a lot of games, but it may be up to Cobbs to put them over the top on the regular.