Welcome to the first edition of Martin's Musings, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and take a quick look at the week to come.
Weekly Pecking Order:
1.) Arizona - Swept Oregon and Oregon State at home (7-1) - The Wildcats took care of business on their home court and now hold sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. Arizona put the beat down on Oregon and gutted out an incredibly painful win over Oregon State. The Wildcats are finally hitting their stride and it is going to take a mighty effort from multiple teams to knock them off the Pac-12 throne.
2.) Utah - Lost to UCLA, beat USC on the road (7-2) - So the Utes lost to UCLA, but it was a road game and they bounced back with a good showing against USC. It is difficult to win on the road in conference play and it was only the second loss for Utah. They get the benefit of the doubt this week, but need strong performances in the coming weeks to hang on to any hopes of the Pac-12 title.
3.) Stanford - Beat Washington, lost to Washington State on the road (6-3) - I'm not sure there were many people out there that could have predicted Stanford to beat Washington and lose to Washington State, but that's what happened. It was a somewhat disappointing trip for the Cardinal, but splitting on the road is par for the course. However, Stanford may want to look into how it let the Cougars shoot 55-percent from the field before UCLA comes to town this week.
4.) UCLA - Swept Utah and Colorado at home (5-4) - The Bruins are finally making some noise. It was a good homestand for UCLA, who absolutely dismantled a very talented Utah team one night and did the same to Colorado just two days later. The Bruins are a very strange team right now, going through many ups and downs. If they can figure out some of the issues plaguing them right now, there is enough talent to make a strong push in the Pac-12 tournament.
5.) Oregon - Lost to Arizona, beat Arizona State on the road (5-4) - It was a pretty uneventful weekend for the Ducks. They performed as expected, splitting on the road. Nothing spectacular, but Oregon is now in a position to get the next two wins at home (against the Washington schools) and sit in the upper half of the conference as the midway point fades in the rear view mirror. Look For Oregon to make some noise as it can easily win the next five games heading into a match-up with Utah.
6.) Oregon State - Lost to Arizona State and Arizona on the road (5-4) - It was a disappointing weekend for the Beavers, getting swept by an average of 20 points. Oregon State still has a long way to go to compete for the Pac-12 title, but this year it has already surpassed any preseason expectations. If anything, the trip to the desert may have shown Wayne Tinkle and the Beavers how much more work is required before they can be near the top of the pack.
7.) Colorado - Beat USC, lost to UCLA on the road (4-5) - If you got to witness the Colorado-USC game during the week, you got one heck of a treat. Triple overtime games don't grow on trees and the back and forth from Askia Booker and Katin Reinhardt was a fun one. The Buffs finally got their first road win of the season in an absolute slugfest, but then got manhandled by a suddenly hot UCLA team. Things don't get easier as Colorado gets rival Utah this week.
8.) California - Swept Washington State and Washington on the road (3-6) - It took a Sam Singer step-back three pointer with four seconds left, but the Golden Bears broke the state of Washington's heart with a sweep of the Northwest. Cal desperately needed a good showing during the road trip and came away with two. It won't get the Golden Bears into title contention, but it should give them some momentum heading into two very winnable games against the LA schools.
9.) Arizona State - Beat Oregon State, lost to Oregon at home (3-6) - Splitting at home isn't ideal, especially when the Sun Devils had several chances to steal the game from Oregon in overtime, but there is a silver lining for the Sun Devils. Shaquille McKissic had two monster games and may finally be able to start carrying his team to a few wins. McKissic and the Sun Devils get to take their final regular season shot at Arizona this weekend and it should be a good one.
10.) Washington State - Lost to California, beat Stanford at home (4-5) - Beating Stanford was quite a feat for the Cougars, who are in a similar position to Oregon State. Wazzou is overperforming this season and it has been the Ernie Kent offense that is fueling the wins. The Cougars have scored over 70 points in all but two conference games, but they'll get tested at Oregon State this week.
11.) Washington - Got swept by Stanford and California at home (3-5) - It's one bad thing after another for the Huskies. Stanford went into Seattle and roughed them up and then just when it looked like Nigel Williams-Goss had won the game for Washington, California rallied for the victory. This team is trying to reinvent itself on the fly right now and the road trip to Oregon is going to shed some light on just who the Huskies are this year.
12.) USC - Got swept by Colorado and Utah at home (1-7) - When you go to triple overtime and two thirds of your points are scored by two players, your team probably isn't very deep. The Trojans are definitely not a deep team and if Katin Reinhardt doesn't pick up his fifth foul on a cheap over-the-back call off a free throw miss, USC might have been able to keep Colorado from its first road win. The Trojans are hurting badly with lack of talent right now, but the few pieces they have are fun to watch.
Yes, that happened: Oregon State was one of the hottest teams heading into the week, holding onto a top-15 defense rating and taking the Pac-12 by storm. That was until they ran into the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Beavers were holding teams to less than 56 points per game and the Sun Devils were scoring an average just over 65 points a night.
So what happens when the tight unforgiving defense meets the mediocre offense? The Sun Devils scored 73 points in an 18-point rout over the Beavers. Johnathan Gilling and Bo Barnes both lit it up from deep and Arizona State flipped the light switch off on a surging Oregon State team.
The Beavers would go on to take a 23-point drubbing at the hands of Arizona before finally getting on a flight back home to figure things out.
What went wrong? The biggest disappointment of the conference season only got worse this week when the Washington Huskies announced that leading shot blocker and defender Robert Upshaw was dismissed form the team. He had struggled with off-the-court issues in the past, but it seems that they had finally gotten the better of him and his career in Seattle.
Heading into the conference slate, UW was one of the surprise teams, winning its first 11 games, including battles with San Diego State and Oklahoma. Now, with the dismissal of Upshaw, the Huskies got swept by the Bay Area schools at home and the entire rest of the season looks like a massive question mark. Once billed as a legit NCAA tournament team, Washington now has to wonder if it can win enough games to make the NIT.
Hot Shot of the Week: He didn't have a fantastic performance in the loss to UCLA, but Askia Bookers' 43 points against USC earn him the first ever Hot Shot of the Week award. Not only did Booker score, but the intangibles that he brought to the table in that game, including hitting several shots that tied it in clutch situations, puts him over the top. Xavier Johnson hasn't played well since returning to action and with Josh Scott still out, Booker has put the team on his back and got the Buff's their first road win of the year, even if it was against the cellar dweller of the conference.
Game of the Week: There are several decent match-ups and storylines this week, including Ernie Kent's return to Eugene, but the can't miss game of the week has to be UCLA at Stanford on Thursday night. The Bruins have strung together a few wins and the Cardinal are trying to stay relevant in a conference that may only get three tournament bids this year.
If Stanford wins, it stays in the running as a long shot to win a share of the title and knocks UCLA out of the log jam of 5-4 teams in the conference. If UCLA wins, there are suddenly an even bigger pileup in the middle of the Pac-12.