Pac-12 Whiparound 6

A look around the Pac-12 as teams gear up for the stretch run

Ken Pom Rank
Previous Week Ken Pom
Best Win
Worst Loss
Arizona 12-2
Gonzaga (5)
UNLV (98)
Utah 11-3
Wichita State (13)
Oregon (55)
Oregon 10-5
Utah (7)
Washington State (196)
Stanford 8-6
Texas (21) Washington State (196)
Oregon State 8-7
89 Arizona (3) Quinnipiac (165)
8-7 16-12
Utah (7)
California (130)
Arizona State 7-7
46 Arizona (3) Washington State (196)
UCLA (45)
Cal-State Bakersfield (260)
Colorado 5-9
94 Stanford (37) Hawaii (138)
Washington State 5-9
Stanford (37) Idaho (222)
Washington 4-10
113 Oklahoma (9)
Washington State (196)
Oregon State (86)
Portland State (244)

There was some minor to significant turbulence in the Conference of Champions (Last MBB Title:  1997) this past week.  First off, we have new 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place teams, which is relevant in so much as the teams doing the moving also changed places with regard to the NCAA Tournament, which considering the time of year and the reality of the unbalanced schedule, is all anybody really cares about anyway.
    Arizona swept its way through the L.A. schools, first by sand-blasting USC in a game that was over before it began, and then by gritting its way through a gruesome offensive performance with incredible defense against UCLA.  That loss completed a Lost Weekend in the Desert for the Bruins, who started the week primed for a stretch run into postseason play, and ended it on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
    The biggest winner of the week was clearly the Oregon Ducks.  Dana Altman continues to operate without much acclaim, but look at the jump Oregon made in the Ken Pom rankings and you can see how big a week it was in Eugene.  After beating an increasingly ornery Sun Devil team, Altman's Ascent climaxed with a resume-solidifying victory over Mighty Utah.  That earned the Ducks sole possession of third place, and set the stage for a potential Showdown on Sunday against their next closest pursuer.
    Stanford did two great things this week:  First, it didn't play any games during the week.  Doing nothing and standing in place was enough for the Cardinal to catch the Bruins and the Beavers, and then beating Cal on Saturday put Stanford in outright possession of 4th place and revived for the moment a flat-lining NCAA Tournament resume.
    ASU continued its stretch of improved ball with a sweep of the L.A. schools.  It's hard to believe this team was in 11th place just a couple weeks ago.  UW won the cr-Apple Cup in Pullman, while USC fans.....have spring football coming up soon.


1. Arizona-The Kitties vanquishing of the Bruins, and more importantly  the manner in which they did it, may have been the most ausipicious performance of their season.  Arizona's got the best offense in the conference.  However, in March, there's always a game when your offense abandons you and you have to find a way to win.  Arizona's conference-best defense showed up, but more importantly, the Wildcats overcame their offensive struggle by bashing the Bruins on the offensive boards and by dominating the defensive backboards.  These were no pencil-neck Geeks that Arizona manhandled.  UCLA is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 33.1% of available offensive rebounds.  In Tucson they grabbed 3.8%.  That led to a 16-0 score on second chance points, and that was more than enough to overcome the fact that the Bruins outshot the Wildcats.  Perhaps even more terrifying is that the Wildcats were led by Stanley Johnson, who shot an abysmal 1-9 but grabbed four offensive rebounds to lead the team.  Shoot 38% on eFG, have your best player go 1-9 against a talented opponent, and win by 10?? Arizona is building a strong case that there may very well be more than one breed of Wildcat in Indianapolis this year. 
Next Up:
The treacherous Rocky Mountain Roadie.  The 'Cats must be ready for a Trap Thursday in Boulder before a huge game in Salt Lake City.  A Rocky Mountain Sweep would lock up the Pac-12 Tourney 1 seed, but more importantly could very well help cement an NCAA Tourney One seed.

2. Utah-
  The stumble in Eugene most likely cost the Utes a chance at the outright regular season title, barring a Colorado upset of Arizona.  Utah just threw up a stinker.  They lost all Four Factors to the Ducks, and posted an ORtg of 89.6, far below their season average of 113.4.  If there was any significant takeaway, it's that the Utes were finally made to pay for their devotion to the three-point shot.  Coach Krystkowiak's Krew took a staggering 29 shots from three, and made only eight. The Utes have made their offense work all year, but should they fall, a failure from three is going to be the  most likely culprit.
Next Up: Hosting the Sun Devils on Thursday before the Showdown in Salt Lake.  That game still has plenty of meeting for the Utes, who haven't faced and beaten an elite opponent since December 3 against Wichita State.

3. Oregon-
  The Ducks are flying high after some home cooking propelled them past Utah and into the 20-Win Club.  That they were able to beat Utah with Joe Young struggling on his way to a 5-16 shooting day makes the win even more impressive.  The Go-Go Ducks continue to win with an offense that compensates for a lackluster defense.  Interestingly, Oregon generates the third least amount of free throws per field goal attempt in the Pac-12, but is the conference's best free throw shooting team.  The inability to get to the line could trip the Ducks up on the road this week, but hasn't stopped the Quack Attack from winning six of seven.
Next Up:  The Bay Area trip.  Oregon should have its hands full all week, starting with a trip to Berkeley on Wednesday.  If they can win that game, they get an extra day of rest before their opponent on Sunday.  A road sweep would all but assure an NCAA Tournament bid for the Ducks.

4. Stanford- 
Saved its season by completing a season sweep of Cal.  Senior stalwarts Anthony Brown and Chasson Randle led the way, along with Freshman Michael Humphrey.  Stanford remains a top three offense, mainly because it limits turnovers better than any team in the league and it is the second best three-point shooting team in the league.  Chasing the Cardinal off the line remains crucial because Stanford's 2-PT FGA of 45.5% is 9th in the Pac-12.  Defensive ley, they still foul more than any team in the league, although they did a good job of playing clean defense against Cal.
Next Up:
Two more must-win home games against the most contrasted duo of teams in the league.  Oregon State is a grinding, slogging team that tries to outguard you, while the Ducks want to outscore you.  If Stanford can get by the Beavers, it sets up a potential bronze-medal game on Sunday vs. Oregon with NCAA qualifying ramifications for both.

5.  Oregon State-
Having the worst offense in the league to go with the slowest pace of play finally caught up to the Beavers, who have lost three of four.  They did get a win against Colorado, erupting for 72 points, nearly twice what it mustered in a loss to Utah just a few days earlier.  Nevertheless, this remains the feel-good story of the year for the Pac-12, and it will interesting to see whether Coach Tinkle's Toilers can hold off UCLA and Arizona State for a top-half finish in the league, which would be a nice achievement for a team that finished 8-10 in conference last season.
Next Up:
A chance to catch Stanford looking ahead to Oregon on Thursday night.  The Beavers will have their hands full with the Stanford offense, but GPII going head up with Chasson Randle and Brown should be worth a watch.  After that it's a visit to Berkeley.  Oregon State has struggled mightily away from Gill, and this is their last chance to win a second or possibly third conference road game.

6.  UCLA-
It wasn't shocking to see the Bruins stumble in Tempe, then push Arizona on Saturday.  All year long, the Bruins have had stretches where they appeared ready to establish some consistency.  The game in Tucson was for house money, but they really needed to be ready for the Sun Devils.  The price could very well be missing out on the NCAA Tournament.  The Bruins continue to define mediocrity, sporting the 6th-rated offense and the 5th-rated defense.  On defense, they continue to struggle to defend the three point shot.  Teams get a league-best 33.7% of their points against UCLA from three.  On offense, 45.3% shooting on two-point FG's and 67.4% shooting on FT's have hindered the Bruin attack. 
Next Up: 
Three delicious cupcakes come to Pauley.  First the Washingtons and then USC to close the year.  With all that sugar, it wouldn't be a shock to see another jumble with the standings in a week's time, with Oregon and Stanford playing each other this week and the Ducks on the road.  Regardless, it seems UCLA is going to have to sweep the last three and do some work in Vegas to get to the NCAA's.

7. Arizona State-
A three-game winning streak has brought the Sun Devils to 7-7 in the conference.  The wins against Arizona and UCLA suggest that the talent has been there for ASU, if not the focus.  The renaissance has been led by the defense.  Arizona State now stands as the 4th best defense in the conference, bolstered by the second best defensive rebounding rate (24.8%) and the second lowest defensive FT rate in the conference (33.4%). 
Next Up: 
The Rocky Mountain Roadie.  A likely pair of losses, but the Sun Devils have a chance to beat Colorado.  The NCAA Tournament, despite a respectable KenPom rating, is a lottery situation for the Sun Devils in Vegas.

8.  California-
The euphoria of the Bears' five game wining streak has been quelled by consecutive road losses to Utah and Cal.  Coach Cuonzo Martin's team had been making strides defensively, but have taken steps back in the last two losses.  Cal hasn't been scoring very well since its trip to Washington, so when the defense gave way, losses were an inevitability.
Next Up:  Hosting the Oregon schools.  These games are both winnable for Cal.  If they can upset Oregon on Wednesday, a home sweep could propel them out of play-in Wednesday at the MGM Grand.

9. Colorado-
The big Stanford win didn't do much in the way of momentum on the Oregon trail for Coach Boyle's Buffaloes.   A season ravaged by injuries has now become a formality.  Should they finish strong and avoid the top two seeds, the Buffaloes could be a dangerous out in Vegas, but right now, this team just can't score, and the league's worst second worst eFG% and turnover ratio have been the biggest flaws in the Colorado attack. 
Next Up: 
Hosting the Arizonas.  The way Sean Miller's team is playing, a careless effort in Boulder is unlikely, and that's what it would take for Colorado to pull the upset.  Don't count on it.

Washington State- Dropped a home game to their in-state rivals, and it's no surprise that the worst defense in the Pac-12 (116.6 DRtg) has followed a 4-1 start to conference play with a two wins in the last ten games.  It's going to take Ernie Kent a while to turn around the fortunes of the Cougars, and the first thing that needs to be repaired is the defense. 
Next Up:
A winter respite in Southern California.  They start with a game against last-place USC and then get the Bruins on Sunday.  They are just playing for Play-In seeding at this point.

11. Washington-
The defense cratered when Robert Upshaw was dismissed, so the Huskies just went and outscored WSU on Sunday.  Washington just doesn't have the size to stop teams inside.  Credit Coach Romar for keeping the effort up after a deflating seven-game losing streak. 
Next Up:  The L.A. trip. It rained in Los Angeles yesterday, so they might not even be getting a break from the Seattle winter.  It's been that kind of season for the Dawgs.

12. USC-
Played the role of the Washington Generals this past week in the desert.  The Trojans have a firmer grip on last place than Arizona does on first.  It will be interesting to see how warm the seat gets for Andy Enfield in year 3.
Next Up:
Two potential wins against the Washington schools.  These games should be avoided by the public at all cost.

Games of the Week:

Oregon State at Stanford, Thursday 2/26 @ 8PM, Pac-12 Networks: One of only three games the entire week between teams with winning conference records, the usually unwatchable Beavers get a mention here because of that and because there is literally nothing else of interest between winning teams in the front half of the week.

Arizona at Utah, Saturday 2/28 @6PM, ESPN: The game of the year in the Pac-12.  The two best teams playing for shares of the regular season conference title, playing in a rematch of a Wildcat win in Tucson.  Utah played a superb non-conference schedule, but the lack of elite teams this year means that this game may be its only chance to notch a resume-building win since 2014.  These are the best offenses and defenses in the league, so this game should be outstanding whether it ends up high or low-scoring.  Arizona, playing for the second time at altitude in 48 hours, will need its depth to combat what will be an amped up Huntsman Center.

Oregon at Stanford, Sunday 3/1 @4PM, FS1:  Stanford will be playing for its tournament life, Oregon may be playing for seeding, but both should be playing for third place in the league.  Two very good offenses meet in a Sunday matinee.  Joe Young vs. Anthony Brown should make for some very entertaining basketball.

The Bootleg Top Stories