Welcome to the fourth 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 USC and UCLA at home (12-2) [LW:2] – At last, the Wildcats have retaken the top spot in the pecking order. Arizona had some trouble handling UCLA, but it eventually came out with a sweep of the LA schools. The Wildcats are all alone atop the Pac-12 and the Utah game on Saturday now becomes the biggest game of the season, with Arizona all but solidifying a conference championship with a win.
2.) Utah: Beat Oregon State, lost to Oregon on the road (11-3) [LW:1] – Well, it came down to my game of the week, but the Utes finally dropped another game. All three conference losses have come on the road and Utah ran into a buzz saw that is the surging Oregon Ducks for the latest folly. The Utes return home this week and they will get their senior day shot at Arizona for a shot at splitting the conference title.
3.) Oregon: Swept Colorado and Utah at home (10-5) [LW:4] – Don’t look now, but the Ducks just solidified their case for the Big Dance. After a tumultuous offseason, Dana Altman and Joseph Young have turned this young team into a force in the Pac-12 conference. Oregon still hasn’t played well away from home, so that is a cause for concern for the Ducks in the post-season, but right now, they are rolling.
4.) Stanford: Beat California at home (8-6) [LW:5] – It was a long week of prep for the Cardinal, but they took care of business at home, beating rival California. As it stands now, Stanford is probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but it gets a chance for a quality win against Oregon this week before heading to the desert to close the season.
5.) UCLA: Got swept by Arizona State and Arizona on the road (8-7) [LW:3] – If Steve Alford could wipe the trip to Arizona off of the schedule, I’m sure he would do it in a heartbeat. The Bruins got swept on the road trip and have just about lost any hope of making it to the NCAA tournament without winning the Pac-12 tournament. That is not entirely out of the question if UCLA gets hot, but the depth over three or four days would be a major issue for the Bruins heading into the semifinals and final.
6.) Oregon State: Lost to Utah, beat Colorado at home (8-7) [LW:6] – The Beavers lost their first game at home this weekend, but bounced back in time to lay the beat down on Colorado. Gary Payton II went off for 24 points and Oregon State continues to stay on the plus-side of the .500 line for the conference season. Wayne Tinkle is doing something magical in Corvallis and I can’t wait to see what this team looks like in two or three years.
7.) Arizona State: Swept UCLA and USC at home (7-7) [LW:7] – It took a big comeback and late game heroics from Jonathan Gilling to knock of conference bottom-feeder USC, but Arizona State continues the hot play at home. The Sun Devils all but killed UCLA’s hopes at the post-season and are sitting with an even record of wins and losses in the Pac-12 with the two wins. ASU is coming on late, but will get tested on the road this week. If the Sun Devils can come out with a split, things may start looking up for this young team.
8.) Washington: Beat Washington State on the road (4-10) [LW:12] – I know, it seems silly that Washington jumps up four spots with just one win, but that win was on the road and the four teams that the Huskies jumped were a collective 0-6 on the weekend. In a game that came down to the wire, Lorenzo Romar drew up a play for his hottest player (see: Hot Shot of the Week) and got a huge shot for the win. That kind of play vaults you over the teams that just didn’t have it this week.
9.) California: Lost to Stanford on the road (6-8) [LW:8] – I’ll give the Golden Bears credit as they hung with Stanford for a majority of the night, but winning on the road against a rival is never easy, especially when that rival desperately needs wins to stay in the hunt for a chance at the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Bears just don’t have enough firepower this year and with Tyrone Wallace seemingly headed to the NBA, next year may not be much better.
10.) Washington State: Lost to Washington at home (5-9) [LW:9] – The fighting Ernie Kents nearly swept the regular season series over Washington, but everybody knew that Andrew Andrews, the guy who has a career high and over 30 points in the game, would get the ball for the last shot except for the Cougars. I still have no idea how Andrews was so wide open, but he was and he hit the shot. The man with one name and an extra “s” will be haunting Kent for a while.
11.) Colorado: Got swept by Oregon and Oregon State on the road (5-9) [LW:10] – Another week and another two losses for Colorado. The Buffs really aren’t very good, but they got beaten badly by the Oregon schools on the road this week. I’m not sure that if Colorado had stayed completely healthy that it would have won many more games than it has.
12.) USC: Gto swept by Arizona and Arizona State on the road (2-13) [LW:11] – The Trojans weren’t winning at McKale Center and that is fine. However, USC led ASU by 10 with 9:53 to go in the game and was up six with under five minutes left on the clock. The Trojans only had one basket, a desperation three-pointer after the game had been decided, in the final five minutes of the game. That is a mighty impressive implosion for USC, but not surprising in the least.
Yes, that happened: Arizona had two very long stretches of its win over UCLA where it didn’t score a single point. The Wildcats did not score for the first 6:05 of the game against the Bruins and again had a scoring drought throughout the first 6:44 of the second half. Together, that makes 12 minutes and 49 seconds that Arizona went without scoring. That is one-fourth of the entire game that the Wildcats didn’t score.
What makes this even more interesting is that Arizona still managed to win the game by ten points. The Wildcats didn’t get a good showing from any of its starters, but got just enough production to keep the game close throughout the night and pull away at the end.
What went wrong? UCLA entered the week with hopes of knocking of Arizona and cementing itself with an NCAA Tournament bid. Instead the exact opposite happened. The Bruins floundered in the desert, getting just six points from Tony Parker all weekend and getting swept in Tempe and Tucson.
UCLA is a very up and down team this year. That isn’t the recipe for success in the conference, but it is something that can make a very dangerous team when its back is against the wall. The Bruins lack depth, let Bryce Alford shoot whenever and wherever he wants, and aren’t great defensively. All of those faults were exposed this week on the road.
If the Bruins take the negative momentum they have now and use it to finish the regular season strong, there is a chance that they can still make it in, but more games like the ones this weekend and UCLA is done for.
Hot Shot of the Week: Washington junior Andrew Andrews had a career night in the Huskies only game of the week. The guard averages 13.4 points a game, but scored a career-high 35 points. Andrews hit 11 of his 18 shots, including six three pointers. None was bigger than his final shot of the night, a high arcing long ball that gave Washington the 87-84 victory over Wazzou. To make his night even better, Andrews was a perfect seven for seven from the free throw line and dished out four assists as well, earning him the Hot Shot of the Week award.
Andrews has been a solid contributor for his team this season, but the Huskies have no chance in that game if he doesn’t have that kind of night.
Game of the Week: This one is easy and it isn’t even close. Arizona visits Utah, and assuming both win on Thursday, the game will pretty much be for the Pac-12 regular season title. Arizona dominated in the matchup in Tucson, giving Utah a shot of reality, but the Wildcats have had issues scoring on the road this year and the Utes' defense isn’t going to make it very easy.
The Wildcats will need T.J. McConnell to have a big game and it will likely come down to whether he or Delon Wright plays better as to who comes out with the win. The last loss that Utah had at home was against Arizona last season and the Utes will look to keep their streak alive this weekend, but it won’t be easy. I see this game playing out as a complete slugfest; a real Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed toe-to-toe shootout.
Last man standing wins and I have Utah getting the decision by four.