Welcome to the second edition of Martin's Musings, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and at the week to come.
Weekly Pecking Order:
1.) Utah – Beat Colorado on the road (8-2) [LW:2] – The top spot in the pecking order is reserved for teams that take care of underachieving rivals on the road. That is exactly what the Utes did, beating Colorado by 28 on the road. Utah had a hiccup last week, but it looks like it is back in top form heading into a somewhat easy stretch in the next few weeks.
2.) Arizona - Lost to Arizona State on the road (8-2) [LW:1] – Arizona played one of the worst games of the season against its rivals and still had a chance to win near the end. That and T.J. McConnell’s heroic performance in the game are really the only positive takeaways for the game. The Wildcats desperately need a sweep of the Washington schools on the road this week or the Pac-12 title could begin slipping away.
3.) Oregon – Swept Washington and Washington State at home (7-4) [LW:5] – I’ll be one of the first to tell you that Oregon has exceeded expectations for this year. The offensive production has been astounding to say the least and the Ducks are hanging around the conference title hunt conversation. At lot more will be known about how this plays out following a trip to LA this week.
4.) Oregon State – Swept Washington State and Washington at home (7-4) [LW:6] – Wayne Tinkle is doing something special up at Oregon State. It is not every day that a brand new coach turns a team with a significantly lower talent level than most of the conference into a Pac-12 force. The Beavers had some close calls, but took care of business at home against the Washington schools.
5.) UCLA – Beat Stanford, lost to Cal on the road (6-5) [LW:4] – Just when it looked like the Bruins had turned the corner, beating Stanford on the road to grab a hold of that third place spot, UCLA went and lost to California. So goes the Bruins’ season, with ups and downs, but the rollercoaster is just getting into form as UCLA gets to face both white-hot Oregon schools this week.
6.) Stanford – Lost to UCLA, beat USC at home (7-4) [LW:3] – When you need a 9-3 run to come from behind to beat USC on your home court, then there is something wrong with your team. For moments, late Sunday night it looked like the Cardinal were about to have all hopes at the post-season dashed, but fortunately, they were playing the worst team in the conference. Stanford goes to Utah and Colorado next week and it needs to put on a good showing in both games for any shot at keeping the bubble in tact.
7.) California - Swept USC and UCLA at home (5-6)[LW:8] – Last week, Sam Singer was the hero. This week, it was Dwight Tarwater, who took a gutsy three-ball from the corner with 18 seconds left in the game after shooting just 1-4 the previous 59:42. Tarwater made the shot and California did something that it hasn’t done since last season: swept a Pac-12 weekend at home. Despite the big weekend, Cal still has a long way to go to make up for its six-game losing streak a few weeks ago.
8.) Arizona State - Beat Arizona at home (4-6) [LW:9] – The Sun Devils played the game of the season and upset the Wildcats at Wells Fargo Arena. Given the win barely put ASU over .500 for the season, it was a bad loss for Arizona. Arizona State has a ways to go before it can potentially be good again, but the play of freshman guard Tra Holder holds a glimmer of hope for the future of basketball in Tempe.
9.) Colorado – Lost to Utah at home (4-6) [LW:7] – Josh Scott was back in the lineup for the Buffs, but Askia Booker was out with a hip pointer and there was just no way that Colorado was going to beat Utah without a completely healthy roster. This is a season of dread for the Buffs and it doesn’t look like things will change in the near future for Colorado.
10.) Washington State – Got swept by Oregon State and Oregon on the road (4-7) [LW:10] – Well, it wasn’t a good road trip for Ernie Kent and his Cougars. Getting blown out by 23 wasn’t exactly the homecoming that Kent hoped for, but it is what it is for Washington State right now. The program is moving in the right direction, but will need some time to get back to decent form.
11.) Washington - Got swept by Oregon and Oregon State (3-7) [LW:11] – Things continue to get worse for Washington. The Huskies are amidst the worst letdown in the recent memory and the rain may continue in Seattle as the Wildcats come to town on Friday and will be hungry for a win.
12.) USC - Got swept by California and Stanford on the road (1-7) [LW:12] – It looked like USC might move up a spot this week until the Trojans fell apart down the stretch against Stanford. USC clung to a small lead for a majority of the game, but couldn’t find buckets down the stretch after Katin Reinhardt went down with an injury.
Yes, that happened: Coming into the week, the game to watch was Stanford hosting UCLA with multiple teams jostling for that third spot in the conference. If the winner of the game swept the weekend, it would be alone in third place. UCLA came away with the victory, although the Bruins blew a 22-point lead in the final 11 minutes and relied on a Chasson Randle miss at the buzzer to hold onto the win.Blowing the lead wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened to UCLA this week as the Bruins went to Haas Pavilion and fell to the magical three-pointer from Tarwater. UCLA went from being in third place to sixth with that one shot.
What went wrong? The big upset of the weekend is how poorly Arizona played on the road against hated conference rival Arizona State. T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson showed up to play ball, but it seemed like they were playing two on five at some points during the game. Keep in mind that Arizona was without backup point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, but there was a lack of focus and effort on the defensive side of the ball and it showed.
Arizona has elite talent, but couldn’t put the Sun Devils away, so Bo Barnes shut the door by himself, hitting an off-balance, fade away three pointer as the shot clock expired to seal the upset in Tempe.
Hot Shot of the Week: Known as a scorer, Joseph Young did just that this weekend, putting up 32 points in the win over Washington and flirting with a triple-double (28 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) in the blowout win against Washington State. Young hit 22 of his 37 shots over the weekend while picking up his 2,000th career point.
It has been a bumpy road for Young throughout his career, but he is finally shining this season and is the leader of that Oregon team. They will only go as far as he can take them and right now, he is carrying more than his weight.
Game of the Week: This one can really go to either UCLA game this week, but the one that I think means the most is the Oregon State matchup with UCLA on Wednesday. Both teams have something to prove and this showdown could separate the contender from the pretender.
What makes this game intriguing is that UCLA has struggled offensively throughout the season. Oregon State has a top-25 defense that can shut down even the best of teams. If UCLA can't get some buckets early, it could be a long night for the Bruins.
I’ll take the Beavers by four.