When Oregon St. lost to Seattle you could feel it coming. When they went down against Texas Southern the momentum built. And when they blew it against Utah Valley it just became more inevitable. Oregon St.: first place in the Pac-10!
OK, OK, let's back up a second. So the Beavers beat Arizona St. at home. That in and of itself isn't a big shock - one bad team beating another bad team at home is pretty common. But by a score of 80-58? Is Trent Lockett really that important for the Sun Devils? And then, two days later, Oregon St. invites Arizona to Gill Coliseum and sends the Wildcats home with a 76-75 loss. Whaaaa?
Somehow, Craig Robinson has discovered the only defensive gameplan in the country that is more effective against conference opponents who see it 2 to 3 times a year than it is against unknown non-conference foes. Arizona decided to fight the 1-3-1 by launching a ton of threes (40% of their shots were from deep) and turning the ball over constantly. Why the dregs of the Southland conference can beat the zone but luminaries of the coaching profession like Mike Montgomery and Sean Miller cannot is a mystery that may never be fully explained.
After the jump we'll discuss Washington's most excellent L.A. vacation and Washington St.'s parallel trip to the unhappiest place on earth.
Around The Pac
In which we take a look at a few of the more interesting and/or important games that happened last week
Washington 73, USC 67 (OT) ; Washington 74 UCLA 63
As weird as Oregon St.'s sweep of the Arizona schools is, Washington's road sweep in L.A. was easily the most important story from the first week of conference play, at least in terms of title implications. With the possible exception of a trip northwest, a weekend in L.A. against UCLA and USC is probably the toughest road trip in the conference. Washington, a team notorious for failures away from Hec Ed Pavilion, managed to pull it off and put themselves in the poll position early in the season.
The Huskies did it with defense (both UCLA and USC shot below 35% from the field) and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who will likely earn Pac-10 player of the week honors after collecting 39 points and 18 rebounds in total. Bryan-Amaning's big step forward has been huge, as the big man has done most of the work replacing the production of Quincy Pondexter. Washington only has to go on the road to the Bay Area before ending the first half of the Pac-10 season in Pullman - that's a schedule that is set up to build a potentially sizable lead.
UCLA 80, Washington St. 71 ; USC 60, Washington St. 56
Meanwhile, the Cougars reminded us all of the true perils of the L.A. road trip, dropping two tough decisions by coughing away 2nd half leads. For a team touted by many (myself included) as dark horse Pac-10 champions, it's a rough way to start things off. The two losses were so disheartening that Cougcenter had to have a 'the season isn't over' thread.
No, it isn't over by any means, and the Cougs will look to get healthy at home against the Oregon schools. But I'm sure it's frustrating for Coug fans to lose two very different games - a fast paced shoot out to the Bruins and a defensive slog against the Trojans. In both games WSU held their own on the boards and in the turnover battle - they were simply out-shot, a surprising problem for the team that shot the ball so well during the non-conference schedule. But then again, playing on the road against UCLA and USC is a little different than Idaho and Santa Clara.
The Pac-10 returns to a more traditional schedule with four Thursday games, four Saturday games and a rivalry tilt on Sunday. The Oregon schools visit the Washington schools, which means Saturday could see a matchup of 3-0 Oregon St. against 3-0 Washington, which would only be 50% weird. The Bay Area schools travel to Arizona, and either the Wildcats or the Bears will feel very upset about how everything has started.
And the main event? UCLA @ USC at 7:30 pm on Sunday, which will end either with one fanbase clenching their fists in apoplectic rage, or with one fanbase shrugging their shoulders and counting the days until football season. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which.