Welcome to the seventh edition of Martin's Musings and the final edition of the 2014-2015 basketball season, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and take a quick look at the postseason.
Weekly Pecking Order:
1.) Arizona: Won Pac-12 Tournament (16-2) [LW:1] – The Wildcats tore through the Pac-12 Tournament with Brandon Ashley leading the way as the Tournament MVP. Arizona had very little trouble in Las Vegas with the exception of a sluggish second half start against UCLA. Getting into the NCAA Tournament wasn’t a problem for Arizona and the draw is favorable in the first few rounds.
2.) Oregon: Pac-12 Runner Up (13-5) [LW:2] – The Ducks fought hard to get to the Title game, but then just ran into a buzzsaw. There was really no way that Oregon was going to win that game after the Pac-12 Player/Coach of the Year awards. Dana Altman did some amazing work with the situation that he backed himself into in Eugene, but saving your own butt barely merits recognition.
3.) Utah: Lost in Semifinal to Oregon (13-5) [LW:4] – The Utes are really struggling down the stretch. Since losing to Arizona, Utah has won just two games and is limping into the NCAA tournament. Losing to Oregon on a buzzer beater is heart breaking for Larry Krystkowiak and his team, but may be just the thing that they need to get back on track since it is do or die time now.
4.) UCLA: Lost in Semifinal to Arizona (11-7) [LW:3] – After playing Arizona tough in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, UCLA, much to fans and analysts’ dismay, was gifted an NCAA Tournament bid. I’m not sure anyone in the country believed the Bruins even had a chance, but they are in and what they do with it will determine just how bad or good that decision was.
5.) Colorado: Lost in the Second Round to Oregon (7-11) [LW:7] – We’ll get around to Askia Booker later on, but the fact that the Buffs turned around and won a game in the Pac-12 tournament was exciting. Colorado beat Oregon State in a good fight, but then let a halftime lead turn into a complete beating at the hands of Oregon. That’s going to sting as the Buffs head to the CBI
6.) Stanford: Lost in the Second Round to Utah (9-9) [LW:8] – Just like Colorado, Stanford was leading at halftime against the Utes, but somehow got outscored 46-17 in the second half and got blown out. Johnny Dawkins is easy to blame here, but the truth is that Stanford just wasn’t deep enough or talented enough to compete in big time games, which is why the Cardinal faltered towards the end of the season.
7.) California: Lost in the Second Round to Arizona (7-11) [LW:11] – It isn’t easy to beat a team three times in a season, but Arizona certainly made it look that way when it beat up on the Golden Bears for the third time since the turn of the calendar year. Cuonzo Martin has some talent on his roster, but with Tyrone Wallace leaning towards the NBA, California may be in for a few rebuilding years.
8.) USC: Lost in the Second Round to UCLA (3-15) [LW:12] – Andy Enfield led his team to the second round of the tournament with an improbable comeback against Arizona State. A 21-4 run was all it took for the Trojans to end the Sun Devils season and it came at the perfect time. This isn’t something that is going to make the program now, but it certainly can be a stepping stone.
9.) Oregon State: Lost in the First Round to Colorado (8-10) [LW:10] – Well, the magical run for Wayne Tinkle finally came to an end. He outperformed expectations and showed that the Beavers will be a force to be reckoned with if enough talent pools together in Corvallis. A losing season in conference play is disappointing given the hot start that Oregon State got off to, but getting those wins was a keystone in the process for the Beavers.
10.) Arizona State: Lost in the First Round to USC (9-9) [LW:5] – Leave it to the Sun Devils to go out like chumps in their version of the big dance. The only thing worse than ASU’s complete and utter disregard for keeping a big lead late in a game was the Human Slinky, so that’s not saying much. The loss did bring us a few sad photos of Herb Sendek though and that’s the real tragedy here.
11.) Washington State: Lost in the First Round to California (7-11) [LW:6] – There was no miracle run for the Fighting Ernie Kents as they were handled easily by those pesky Golden Bears in the first round, likely before some of the top teams even arrived in Las Vegas. Now, the offseason begins a strange time, where the Cougars will look to build around flash-sale superstar Josh Hawkinson, a guy who barely played for the previous regime, but showed this season that he may have been able to have an impact in Ken Bone’s last season.
12.) Washington: Lost in the First Round to Stanford (5-13) [LW:9] – Ah, the Huskies. There isn’t much more to say about Washington that hasn’t already been said. Lorenzo Romar won’t be fired any time soon, but if his incoming recruiting class doesn’t hit the ground running, there are going to be some angry Huskie fans.
Where are they now?
Arizona (2 seed)
Utah (5 seed)
Oregon (9 seed)
UCLA (11 seed)
Stanford (2 seed)
Arizona State (5 seed)
Colorado (2 seed)
Colorado: I promised that we would get back to Askia Booker and here we are. Colorado had a nightmare of a season, struggling early on to find cohesiveness and then getting hit with the injury bug that sidelined two of their better players certainly didn’t help. That aside, Colorado managed to win enough games to garner a two-seed in the College Basketball Invitational.
That seems reasonable, except that Booker has decided that he is much too good for the CBI and would rather not play with the rest of his teammates in the third best post-season tournament out there, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Colorado is Booker’s team. He is the only senior who saw any real action and was the go-to guy throughout the year, especially when Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson went down with injuries. The Buffs only went as far as Booker could carry them and just before the finish line, he is sliding out from under the team, dusting his hands off and walking away.
All of that being said, Colorado without Booker is going to flounder against the first good team it meets in the CBI. Unfortunately, the Buffs won’t make it very far as I have them losing in the second round to Pepperdine. So let’s all wave bye to Booker and his career in Boulder.
Arizona State: Sad Herb may continue to be sad as the Sun Devils got one of the unluckiest draws in the whole NIT. Arizona State blew up against USC and now has to fight against the month-of-March Goliath Connecticut in Storrs. It’s not a good matchup for ASU at all and I have the season ending in this game for the Pac-12 surprise team of the year.
Stanford: Can Johnny Dawkins ruin a two-seed in the NIT? That is what the real question is here. The answer is probably yes, but the draw is favorable.
A main concern for Stanford is how well the team can react to the massive letdown at the end of the season. Several years ago, Arizona reacted badly and got upset on its home court by Bucknell. Stanford has to get Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, and Stefan Nastic to play well and fight or it’ll be an early exit. I think Stanford picks up a few more wins and eventually loses to Daniel Bejarano and Colorado State in the quarterfinals.
UCLA: It’s laughable that the Bruins even made the NCAA Tournament, nevertheless them being in comfortably. UCLA has some talent and passes the “eye test” at times, but at what point do you have to abandon the eye test and just say that the team didn’t perform up to the level of talent for a vast majority of the season? The tournament committee apparently only saw UCLA beat up on USC twice in a row and play Arizona close, threw out the resume and said, “UCLA, I like them as an 11-seed,” because I can’t think of any other explanation.
With that in mind, when was the last time that a team who shouldn’t have gotten in the tournament completely flopped in the first game? I’ve got UCLA over SMU and falling to Final Four contender Iowa State in a tight one.
Oregon: The Pac-12 Coach and Player of the Year will get an early chance to show off why they won those awards. The Ducks shouldn’t have any issues with Oklahoma State and I think they actually win comfortably, but Wisconsin is no slouch. I’m sure every Arizona fan will be rooting for Oregon in this one, but I have the Badgers ending the Ducks’ season.
Utah: Will the loss at the buzzer motivate Utah or will the Utes continue to play the heartless basketball that they have put on the court for several of their past games? Delon Wright can’t carry this team all by himself, but he can get probably get past Stephen F. Austin without much help. I think Georgetown is an upset waiting to happen and Utah over Eastern Washington is another fairly easy pick. I do have Utah’s season ending in the second weekend though with Duke proving to be too much.
Arizona: Wouldn’t it be a nice way to end the final Martin’s Musings of the year with a prediction that the Wildcats were going to go all the way? Well that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Arizona is playing as good as any team in the country and better than 99-percent of them.
Many have talked about the Year of the Monkey and this is just that. I have Arizona walking through the first weekend against Texas Southern and Ohio State, winning the hard fought defensive battle with Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen, exacting revenge on Wisconsin and breaking down the door in the Elite Eight, toppling the giant (Kentucky) in the Final Four, and making amends for 2001 in the National Championship game against Duke.