Welcome to the third 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.) Utah – Swept Stanford and California at home (10-2) [LW:1] – The first week of the pecking order where the top spot remains unchanged. Utah took care of business this weekend, getting the sweep at home over the Northern California schools. Life only gets tougher form here on out as the Utes go to Oregon, get Arizona at home and then travel to Washington to close out the season.
2.) Arizona – Swept Washington and Washington State on the road (10-2) [LW:2] – The Wildcats were out for blood and they got it. Coming away from the state of Washington without a loss is usually an incredible feat. This year, that has not really been the case, but all credit to Arizona, who was able to go on the road and put together two solid performances in a row. Look for the Wildcats to continue rolling this week at home.
3.) UCLA – Swept Oregon State and Oregon at home (8-5) [LW:5] – Are the Bruins playing their best basketball of the season? Yes, and it isn’t even close. I expected UCLA to drop one or both of their games this weekend and coming away with a sweep is pretty impressive. The Bruins stomped both Oregon schools into the pavement and didn’t even think twice about their feelings. This UCLA train is starting to gain steam, but a trip to the desert could be cause for derailment.
4.) Oregon – Beat USC, lost to UCLA on the road (8-5) [LW:3] – It was a reasonable trip to Los Angeles for the Ducks. A split on the road should never be looked down upon. However, Oregon drops just a spot this week after losing to UCLA, who is on fire right now. The Ducks fell apart in the second half against the Bruins, but still sit tied for third in the conference. Oregon gets a crack at top dog Utah this week on Senior Night in Eugene.
5.) Oregon State – Got swept by UCLA and USC on the road (7-6) [LW:4] –Things could not get much worse for the Beavers. After getting drubbed by UCLA, Oregon State handed USC its second win of the conference season. That’s a pretty bad weekend in itself, but just when you think you are finally getting out of LA, your flight has to turn around because there is a scorpion on the airplane. You can’t make up nightmares more horrifying than the week the Beavers had.
6.) Arizona State – Lost to Washington State, beat Washington on the road (5-7) [LW:8] – The high from beating the Wildcats a week ago wore off quickly as the Sun Devils got Coug’d in the Palouse, but Arizona State turned it around and got a shot against new conference punching bag Washington to salvage the trip to the grand ol’ Northwest. The Sun Devils are very middle-of-the-pack material right now and it wouldn’t surprise me for them to split every week from here on out.
7.) California – Beat Colorado, lost to Utah on the road (3-6) [LW:7] – The Golden Bears snuck into Colorado and somehow found a way to get out of town with a victory. California is not a very good team right now, as was seen in the complete beating it took against Utah, but props to the Golden Bears for the tight defense, forcing two late turnovers to pull out the victory in Boulder.
8.) Stanford – Got swept by Utah and Colorado on the road (7-6) [LW:6] – This is another team that had a week that went as expected. The Cardinal got swept against Colorado and Utah and are going to need to petty much win out in order to stay on the bubble. Stanford has a pretty reasonable slate to finish the year and it will be interesting to see how it fares over the next five games, as the NCAA tournament hangs in the balance.
9.) Washington State – Beat Arizona State, lost to Arizona at home (5-8) [LW:10] – Not many people around the Pac-12 could have imagined that Ernie Kent would have the Cougars with more than five wins in the conference season. Dexter Kernich-Drew has been playing out of his mind lately and Washington State has a few more winnable games left on the schedule. The Cougars aren’t a good team, but credit is due to this team that is doing more than expected.
10.) Colorado – Lost to California, beat Stanford at home (4-8) [LW:9] – The opposite can be said about the Colorado Buffaloes. Sure, there were some injuries that hindered the Buffs, but this has been a letdown season for Colorado. After splitting two close games at home, it now has to go on the road, where CU has only won once this year. Tad Boyle may not be on the hot seat, but will have one heck of a makeover job to do with this team in the offseason.
11.) USC – Lost to Oregon, beat Oregon State at home (2-11) [LW:12] – It was a pretty interesting weekend for the Trojans, as they just missed beating Oregon and then were able to knock off Oregon State. It was only the second conference win for USC, but it snapped a nine game losing streak. However, the party ends there because the Trojans now have to travel to Tucson, where one of the top teams in the country is ready to snap USC’s newly minted winning streak.
12.) Washington - Got swept by Arizona and Arizona State at home (3-10) [LW:11] – After another pair of losses this weekend, Washington moves into the bottom spot in the Pecking Order. If Lorenzo Romar hasn’t felt the warmth of his throne yet, he should very soon. The castle walls in Spokane continue to crumble, as the once crowned 13th-ranked Huskies have lost 11 of the last 14 and seven in a row.
Yes, that happened: The Washington State Cougars have not been very good this season, but they were on Thursday night. Washington State hosted Arizona State and put together one of the best performances all season. The Cougars came back from a halftime deficit, shooting 60-percent from the field en route to pulling off a tight three-point win.
The victory swapped the two teams in the Pac-12 standings, if only for two days, but it was a sign of things to come from the Cougars. Ernie Kent has gotten buy-in from his team and it won’t be long until he has the team back on the plus side of the conference.
What went wrong? Oregon State entered the week sitting pretty in the conference standings. The Beavers were coming off a sweep of the Washington schools and looking to at least pick up one win on the road. That’s not how it happened. The Beavers got absolutely pummeled by the Bruins and the patented Wayne Tinkle defense gave up 75 points in the game, led by a 10-18 performance from beyond the arc from UCLA.
The Beavers then looked to bounce back with a win against the bottom feeder in the conference, USC. The Trojans were playing without starting point guard Jordan McLaughlin, but the road woes continued for the Beavers, as replacement guard Elijah Stewart went off for five three pointers of his own and USC laid the beat down on Oregon State, dropping it to 2-9 on the road this year.
Hot Shot of the Week: If you aren’t starting to think about T.J. McConnell for the Pac-12 Player of the Year, you should start. The senior point guard had quite the weekend, leading his team to a pair of huge wins away from the desert. McConnell tallied 24 points, 18 assists, ten rebounds, and 7 steals.
It will depend on if Arizona wins the conference, but I don’t think that there is another player in the Pac-12 who is more important to his team than T.J. McConnell is to Arizona. With Parker Jackson-Cartwright out with a concussion, if the Wildcats did not have McConnell, Gabe York would be starting at point guard. Think about that for a second and you will see how important the senior is to his team.
Game of the Week: The easy way out this week is to go with College Gameday and pick UCLA at Arizona, but the Bruins don’t play defense and I really don’t think the game is all that close. That’s why I’m taking Utah at Oregon as the game of the week.
The Utes have had some issues away from the Huntsman Center this year and Oregon is still trying to avoid the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament. I know some people don’t think this matters, but it is also Oregon’s senior night. Let’s also not forget that this is the only meeting of the season for the two teams, so it will be winner-take-all.
The Ducks are a high scoring team and Utah’s defense has struggled a bit on the road this season. If Joseph Young and Elgin Cook can get going, things can get interesting for the Ducks. However, I don’t think that Jordan Bell can keep up with freshman sensation Jakob Poetl. It will be one heck of a war between the two teams, but the Utes should prove to be the better team.
I’ll take Utah by five.