Welcome to the fifth edition of Martin's Musings, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and the week to come.
Weekly Pecking Order:
1.) Arizona – Swept Colorado and Utah on the road (14-2) [LW:1] – The Wildcats cemented at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season Championship by picking up one of the biggest wins of the season for any team in the country. Utah has only lost at home twice in the last two years and both of those came at the hands of the Wildcats and Gabe York’s tip-in, which was arguably one of Arizona’s top plays of the season.
2.) Oregon – Swept Cal and Stanford on the road (12-5) [LW:3] – Surprise! The Ducks went on the road, picked up a major sweep and jump the Utes this week. Oregon is firmly in the NCAA Tournament at this point and my hat is off to Dana Altman. Before conference play, I had Altman on a very hot seat and he has proved me wrong by putting his team in a great position to succeed. Of course he is being helped out by his senior leader, Joseph Young, but the Ducks are a dangerous team who can shake up the two postseason tournaments if they come to play.
3.) Utah – Beat Arizona State, lost to Arizona at home (12-4) [LW:2] – I know, losing at home to one of the top teams in the country shouldn't really be a negative for Utah, but coupled with how Oregon played, the Utes are dropping a spot. Utah had a chance to put Arizona away, but only hitting one basket in the final four minutes ultimately doomed any chance of a victory.
4.) UCLA – Swept Washington and Washington State at home (8-7) [LW:5] – The Bruins took care of business at Pauley Pavilion, winning both games on the week. However, UCLA struggled mightily against lowly Washington State and trailed for most of the game until it was bailed out by Tony Parker. Yes, I said Tony Parker. The poor showing is cause for concern for the Bruins going forward, but it is nothing that hasn't been brought up already this season.
5.) Stanford – Beat Oregon State, lost to Oregon at home (8-6) [LW:4] – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Stanford, once in the running for the third spot in the NCAA Tournament, lost to Oregon at home on senior night, effectively ending any shot that the Cardinal had at getting an at-large bid. Johnny Dawkins has had trouble getting his team to perform at the end of the regular season and this has been no different.
6.) California – Lost to Oregon, beat Oregon State at home (6-8) [LW:9] – Losing to Oregon isn't the end of the world for Cal, but beating the Beavers is something that Cuonzo Martin can feel happy about when his team misses out on the NIT. The Golden Bears may end up being in a worse position next season, so Martin needs as many positives as possible this season. A win against one of the better defensive teams in the country is nothing to look down on.
7.) Oregon State – Got swept by Stanford and Cal on the road (8-7) [LW:6] – If this conference were any better, the Beavers would have dropped a lot more than one spot. Wayne Tinkle still hasn't figured out how to win on the road in the Pac-12 and it has been the one negative for Oregon State this year. If the Beavers can win away from Corvallis next year, with Gary Payton II playing even better than this year, they will be an incredibly tough team to beat.
8.) Arizona State – Got swept by Utah and Colorado on the road (7-7) [LW:7] – The Sun Devils were likely a rebound away from coming home with a victory, but Josh Scott ended that, going three-on-one to tip in a rebound with his off hand to seal the deal. Arizona State had a rough week, especially after scoring just nine points in the first half against Utah. With Herb Sendek at the helm, Arizona State is a middle of the pack team and that doesn't look like it will change any time soon.
9.) Washington State – Beat USC, lost to UCLA on the road (5-9) [LW:10] – The Cougars out of Pullman nearly did the impossible, sweeping the LA schools. It came down to the final minutes, but Washington State couldn't pull it out over the Bruins. The close loss was fun to watch, but the quadruple screen that the Cougs ran may have been the most entertaining play of the season. It didn't do anything at all, but run the shot clock and you know those Cougars love to run down the shot clock.
10.) Colorado – Lost to Arizona, beat Arizona State at home (5-9) [LW:11] – So much to say and so little space to do it in. First, Tad Boyle wanted to fight just about anyone after the loss on Thursday, even going as far as suggesting that he was going to start all walk-ons on senior night, which would have been all sorts of awesome. Then, in response, Askia Booker goes off for the highest home scoring total of his career. Way to go out with a bang Askia.
11.) USC – Lost to Washington State, beat Washington at home (2-13) [LW:12] – The Trojans have done it. They surpassed their conference win total from a season ago and will now be looking to improve even further. Beating Washington may not be as difficult as it has been in the past, but USC made it look really easy this weekend.
12.) Washington – Got swept by UCLA and USC on the road (4-10) [LW:8] – At this point, Washington should just pack it in, and that is exactly what seemed to happen this week. Losing to UCLA on the road is understandable, especially since UW is having the biggest collapse since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Huskies lost to the Bruins and then proceeded to get demolished by conference doormat USC. Romar may get another year just on principle, but he may want to avoid heat insulating pants for the foreseeable future.
Yes, that happened: Arizona went into the Huntsman Center, where Utah was undefeated for the entire season, and came out with the win. It was something that many, including myself, thought the Wildcats would need a perfect game all around to do, but it turns out, defense was all it took.
Arizona held Delon Wright without points or an assist in the final eight minutes of the game. Utah hit just one shot, a three pointer that got Stanley Johnson benched, in the final 3:55. To cap that off, the Wildcats finished the game on an 8-0 run.
As improbable as it was, Arizona won its toughest game of the year, with arguably its best player having one of his worst games. That fact alone should tell you that the Wildcats are going to be a tough out for the remainder of the month and possibly in the first weekend of April.
What went wrong? I alluded to it earlier, but Arizona State wins the award for most disappointing performance of the week. The Sun Devils have been on a roll lately, knocking off Arizona, sweeping the LA schools, and playing good basketball. That was, until they got to Utah.
Arizona State put on a Washington State-esque performance, scoring just nine points between tip off and the time that the Sun Devils sulked back to the locker room to figure out what went wrong. They shot just 4 of 26 from the field, including missing all six long ball attempts. Shooting 20-percent from the field is pretty bad, but when you mix it in with two starters picking up three fouls and ten turnovers, you have a recipe for a blowout.
Hot Shot of the Week: This one is difficult because there were so many players who stepped up and played big boy basketball for their respective teams in big games. Let's start with the runners up. Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski were the guiding forces in both of Arizona's wins this weekend. The Wildcats could probably have beaten Colorado without them, but Utah runs Arizona in that scenario. York and Tarczewski combined for 51 points, 20 rebounds, and four blocks on the road trip and were in line for a co-Hot Shot of the Week award before Joseph Young decided to blow up.
Young took his team on the road to the Bay Area, with his team's on the right side of the bubble and hoping to stay there. The senior performed admirably, helping Oregon to a road sweep and securing an at-large bid, scoring 25 points one night and 21 the next. Young also added nine rebounds and five assists across the two games. The solid individual effort was enough to get him the first runner up award.
The real Hot Shot of the week goes to senior guard Norman Powell. When all seemed lost, Powell turned it on and pulled UCLA out of the bubble bursting black hole that is Washington State and kept the Bruins alive. He scored a career-high 28 points as UCLA came from behind to beat the Cougars, but also pitched in 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting in the drubbing of Washington. For that, he earned Pac-12 Player of the Week and gets to wear the Hot Shot of the Week title.
Game of the Week: There aren't many meaningful games left out there this week. Arizona will likely clinch the Pac-12 Championship against Cal, but the game against Stanford to close the season is much bigger because of the implications for the Cardinal.
Stanford is limping into the game with little to no shot at the NCAA Tournament. A win in Tucson would go a long way with the tournament committee. However, the other side of the story is that Arizona is still trying to win out with hope that not losing again will earn the Wildcats the top line in the West. It's the only really meaningful game this week, but it may not even be that close of a game.
It will be Senior Day in McKale Center and Arizona is nursing the longest home winning streak in the country. Cats by 13.