Both Arizona schools fell in Boulder, USC lost at the buzzer and five teams now stand atop the conference standings. Check out how a frantic week in college basketball shaped this week’s Pac-12 power rankings.
Things don’t often make sense in college basketball. All fans know this. The problem is that there’s often a balance between the ordinary and the unexpected.
Last week, that balance ceased to exist.
In a stretch that saw 14 teams in the AP Top 25 (five in the top seven) lose a game, the opening seven days of 2018 proved that there are no dominant teams in college basketball this season. Perhaps no conference hurts more from this than the Pac-12.
The thrilling opener between Arizona and Arizona State gave the conference some hope. After sending three teams to the Sweet 16 and one to the Final Four in last year’s NCAA Tournament, it appeared that the conference had two more teams capable of playing into deep March this season.
Instead, both teams proved they have holes lying underneath their capabilities. Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes took advantage of them, as his team pulled off two upset wins over the Sun Devils and Wildcats in a span of three days.
The USC Trojans were unable to keep up their promising start to conference play, falling against Stanford thanks to a three-fourths court buzzer beater from Daejon Davis. Their crosstown rivals in UCLA impressed with another blowout victory against Cal but gave up 107 points in a puzzling loss against Stanford.
Meanwhile, Oregon State won the Civil War against Oregon to put themselves in a solid position before taking on the Arizona schools. Tough weeks for Washington State and Utah dropped them further back in the conference as they were unable to deliver at home.
Two weeks of conference have passed, and it’s quite possible that we know less about how things will play out in the near future. With all of that in mind, let’s check out where each team stands through the second week of conference play.
12. Calfornia Golden Bears (7-9, 1-2)
Cal’s win against Stanford may be one of the most puzzling results in the Pac-12 season thus far.
In their two games at home this week, the Bears were unable to add on to their opening road victory, losing by an average margin of 20.5 points against USC and UCLA.
Junior Don Coleman failed to make his usual impact on the offensive end, scoring 20 total points on 5-of-23 shooting in the two losses. Foul trouble continued to be an issue for the Bears, as Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee was forced out of the lineup during key runs from the opposition.
Freshman Justice Sueing continued to provide some promise for the team’s future, but it wasn’t enough to derail the inconsistency that has plagued the Bears all season. Wyking Jones’ squad will have to be ready for two contrasting styles this week as they take on Washington and Washington State.
11. Washington State Cougars (8-7, 0-3)
The Cougars met their polar opposite in a slow, half-court affair against the Washington Huskies, and it proved to be too much for a team that hasn’t found their identity on the defensive end.
Ernie Kent’s squad is ranked second-to-last in scoring defense during conference games, giving up 85.0 points per game on a conference-worst 50.5 percent from the field.
While their trio of Robert Franks, Malachi Flynn and Carter Skaggs have continued to provide a solid offensive output, it hasn’t been enough to keep their teams in close games. Teams have constantly found ways to out-score the Cougars on offense, something they didn’t run into during their non-conference schedule.
The Cougars will look to turn things around and get their first conference win as they take on Stanford and California at home this week.
10. Stanford Cardinal (8-8, 2-1)
What a week for the Stanford Cardinal.
With health being a concern for the majority of their non-conference schedule, the Cardinal finally returned all of their roster and maximized their home court advantage with two huge victories against UCLA and USC.
Reid Travis continued his dominant season with two more double-doubles, but what stood out most for Stanford was getting the help that Travis needed. Dorian Pickens recorded a career high of 28 points in his second game back from injury against the Bruins while Kezie Okpala chipped in 12 more points per game in the two victories.
The Cardinal go on the road this week to take on the Washington schools where they’ll look to prove that their phenomenal week wasn’t a fluke.
9. USC Trojans (11-6, 2-2)
For one second, it appeared that USC would be on their way toward the top of the Pac-12 standings. One heave from Daejon Davis later, and those dreams came to a crushing end.
The loss on Sunday night marked another woe in what has been a crushing season in southern California. After holding a lead as large as 15 in the second half, the Trojans were once again unable to close a tight game on the road.
On one hand, the loss could be left behind as a stroke of bad luck. If Daejon Davis’ shot doesn’t go in, the Trojans would likely be five spots higher on this week’s list.
On the other, one could look at the loss as a reflection of the lack of leadership that USC has had all season. At some point, it’d be expected that experienced players in Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin or Bennie Boatwright would step up and find a way to win that type of game on the road.
Instead, USC has continued to fail to tap in to their depth of talent. Perhaps De’Anthony Melton’s suspension is still haunting them after all.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (10-6, 2-2)
Excuse us, Tad Boyle.
The Buffs looked like fresh meat with the Arizona schools coming to town this week, as they showed few positive signs in their losses against Oregon and Oregon State. Instead, they pulled off back-to-back upsets and became college basketball’s most surprising team of the week.
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McKinley Wright IV made his case as one of the best point guards in the conference, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 assists in the two victories. As a team, the Buffaloes shot 50 percent from the floor while holding their opposition to just 37 percent.
Several experts felt that the more difficult game on the mountain trip would be at Utah. However, with victories last season against Oregon and Xavier, the Buffaloes reminded the Pac-12 that the high altitude in Boulder is one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball.
The Buffs will now ride their momentum to the West Coast as they head to Los Angeles for two more tough tests against USC and UCLA.
7. Oregon Ducks (11-5, 1-2)
This time, the Civil War didn’t wave in favor of the Ducks in Eugene.
The Ducks’ offense once again fell flat in Corvallis, amounting just 64 points on 36 percent shooting in their lone loss of the week against the Oregon State Beavers.
Much like their loss against Utah, Payton Pritchard’s lack of offensive output was the dealbreaker for Oregon’s flow. No player in the Ducks’ starting five scored above double figures, and the whole lineup shot just 32 percent from the field.
At this point, you have to wonder just how much Oregon misses Grand Canyon transfer Casey Benson.
The Ducks will have to pick up some instant offense this week as they travel to Tucson and Tempe to take on the Arizona schools.
6. Washington Huskies (12-4, 2-1)
The lone win for the Huskies this week came on the road against the Washington State Cougars, a matchup that pitted contrasting styles of fast offense and lockdown defense.
The defense held up for the Huskies, as they held the Cougars to just 26 percent from beyond the three-point line.
On the offensive end, the Huskies continue to get consistent performances from Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle. Their ability to spread the ball and rely on multiple scorers has kept defenses on edge and unable to slow the Huskies down late in games.
The Huskies hold their opponents to a conference-best 25 percent from the three-point line, and thanks to their 2-3 zone, they’ve forced a ton of teams to play at their pace in the half-court.
Washington will be at home this week as they take on both California and Stanford looking to keep pace with the top of the Pac-12 standings.
5. Utah Utes (10-5, 2-2)
It sure wasn’t fun to be a fan of Utah this week.
Despite trailing by 17 against Arizona, the Utes fought all the way back to tie that game at 77 with 3:45 remaining. It looked like Larry Krystkowiak’s team might have been able to squeeze out a huge upset victory at home.
Then, Rawle Alkins happened.
Arizona’s sophomore shooting guard chipped in for seven points on a 17-5 run to close the game for the Wildcats, ending Utah’s comeback attempt.
The Utes, however, still had one more chance to knock off a top-five opponent in Arizona State.
Down two with eight seconds remaining, Utah’s Justin Bibbins caught a swing pass on the right wing and fired a game-winning three attempt. It spun in and out of the rim twice ultimately before going out of bounds.
The rest was history.
A tough week against the Arizona schools shouldn’t hurt the Utes too much, however. They showed they have the toughness and the inside presence to hang with any team in the Pac-12.
The Utes will now take the road again looking to pick up two victories against USC and UCLA.
4. Oregon State Beavers (10-5, 2-1)
Wayne Tinkle’s Beavers continue to maximize their potential by becoming one of the scariest teams in the Pac-12.
Now holding the conference’s top field goal defense percentage at 39 percent, OSU has continued to mesh their versatile offense with a desire to win at both ends of the floor. Their Civil War victory over Oregon gave the Beavers their most impressive victory of the young season, as four players scored in double figures while the team tallied 17 assists.
Although the Beavers typically go seven players deep, their conditioning has been something to revel about in conference play. Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks both played 38 minutes in their last game and showed no signs of slowing down.
This week will provide the Beavers their best chance to make some noise in the conference season. They’ll travel first to Tucson to take on Arizona followed by Arizona State in Tempe, where they’ll have to execute their stout defense like never before.
3. UCLA Bruins (12-4, 3-1)
After dropping their first conference game of the year against Stanford, the young Bruins showed the poise and ability to bounce back by thrashing Cal by 23 points.
Aaron Holiday has played as well as any point guard in the country over these past two weeks, averaging just under 24 points and five assists in his past five games. Thomas Welsh is continuing to be a double-double machine while freshman Kris Wilkes has continued to be a consistent third option for the Bruins on offense.
UCLA’s three-point prowess from last year hasn’t dropped off either as the Bruins are currently shooting a conference-best 42 percent from the 3-point line during conference games, forcing teams to tire out early in second halves.
The Bruins will get two tough games at home this week as they get ready to take on the mountain schools in Colorado and Utah.
2. No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils (13-2, 1-2)
The Sun Devils proved once again they don’t lack toughness.
Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice were able to find their strokes, as the two combined for 42 points while playing small down the stretch. It appears, for now, that the Sun Devils have their confidence back.
The problem is, will they be able to keep their bigs out of foul trouble?
With their first conference win in hand, the Devils will now open up their first two home games of the season as they take on the Oregon schools this week.
1. No. 17 Arizona Wildcats (12-4, 2-1)
Sean Miller’s latest comments about his team were really concerning.
After ranting about how his team lacked talent after their victory against Long Beach State, Miller’s latest rant included the fact that he can’t get his team to play for him as a coach.
It showed in their latest loss to Colorado, as the Wildcats went down by 20 points at one point during the game. Despite coming all the way back to tie the game, the Wildcats folded down the stretch, as DeAndre Ayton failed to get any low-post touches.
Despite Arizona’s loss, the Cats still hold two of the best victories during conference play, and when Sean Miller challenged his team last, the Wildcats responded by winning eight games in a row.
It’s a long season, but Miller’s comments don’t give many positive signs toward the program in Tucson. Still, the talent of Arizona should be able to give them chances to win in conference play.