This Week In The Pac-12: The Title Race Tightens

If you told me at Christmas that four teams were going to be tied in the loss column after four weeks of Pac-12 play, I wouldn't have been surprised. If you told me that Oregon and Colorado would be two of those four teams I would have been much less likely to believe you.

But that's where we stand. Expected pre-season favorites Cal (6-2) and Washington (5-2) join upstarts Oregon (6-2) and Colorado (5-2) in the unsurprisingly jumbled Pac-12. And if you look ahead to next week, a four way tie at 7-2 is not inconceivable when the conference season reaches the half-way point, although the Buffs and Huskies would have to pull off road sweeps to make that happen. Do you really like chaos? If so, there's also a semi-plausible scenario that results in a six way tie at 6-3 atop the standings that throws Stanford and Arizona into the mix. That would require a Cal loss to Stanford, so I prefer not to contemplate it. But really, a six-way tie at 6-3? I'm getting angry just thinking about it and it hasn't even happened.

Team of the Week: Colorado & Oregon

Yes, I'm weaseling out. Technically I could have chosen any of four teams that swept at home, but Oregon and Colorado's sweeps are more consequential because they are both right at the top of the standings. I wasn't able to see Colorado's games against Arizona or Arizona St., but I did see Oregon's win over UCLA.

The Ducks looked down and out after a dominating first half performance from UCLA, before Oregon turned the tables and completely controlled the 2nd half. I'm still not sure if Oregon just didn't come out to play or if UCLA decided to give up after the break, but the numbers are stark:

1st half rebounds: UCLA 26, Oregon 16
2nd half rebounds: Oregon 21, UCLA 11

1st half eFG%: UCLA 54.5, Oregon 25.8
2nd half eFG%: Oregon 59.6, UCLA 39.3

Either Dana Altman makes great halftime talks, or Ben Howland made his entire roster eat Jumbacos at the break. Not sure which.

Disappointment of the Week: UCLA

At this point we shouldn't be surprised when UCLA loses, but just think back for a second. Remember what we all thought about Ben Howland's Bruins in April of 2008? Now, just three years later, that same coach with that same program is in 7th place of a conference that isn't as good as the Mountain West. I've completely gotten used to the idea that UCLA football is just another meh program - it's been that way for as long as I can remember*.

But I'm still not used to the idea that UCLA basketball might just be kinda meh too. It seems unlikely that Howland (or whichever coach UCLA brings in next year if disgruntled Bruins fans get their wish) can continue to turn 4 and 5 star talent into .500 records, so I plan on enjoying this period for as long as it lasts.

*UCLA football record since 1999: 81-80 ; Since 1989: 149-126-1. Meh.

Player of the Week: Faisal Aden

A player infamously known for offensive inefficiency scored 57 points this week . . . on 29 shots. That would be surprising against any two teams in the conference. He did that against two teams generally considered amongst the three or four best defensive teams in the Pac-12. This is why I am dumb, and you are dumb, and other people who hilariously pretend to understand college sports are also dumb.

Tim Tebow will never complete 75% of his passes. Juan Pierre won't have an on base percentage of .400. But Faisal Aden will average virtually 2 points/shot against two teams that entered the week tied for first place in the conference. Because it just makes sense. College sports.

Game of the Week: Colorado 64, Arizona 63

In the 2nd half both teams had the lead at different points and the biggest lead was Colorado by 5 at the twelve minute mark. There were multiple ties and it went right down to the wire. It was everything you'd want to see between two teams with title aspirations, as long as you don't mind slow, defensive-minded contests. Carlon Brown continues to be perhaps the best of the many impact transfers throughout the conference, and his performance was enough to overcome a shocking 0-8 performance from the usually efficient Andre Roberson. If Colorado can win tough games without getting good games from their go-to-guys it's a sign that the Buffs need to be taken seriously.

Next Week

All times Pacific, all TV listings are Bay Area listings.

Thursday
Washington at Arizona St., 5:30
Washington St. at Arizona, 7:30, CSNBA
Utah at UCLA, 7:30
Colorado at USC, 7:30

Saturday
Colorado at UCLA, 1:00
Washington St. at Arizona St., 2:00
Washington at Arizona, 4:00, ESPN
Utah at USC, 8:00

Sunday
Oregon St. at Oregon, 3:30, CSNBA
Stanford at Cal, 5:30, CSNBA

This Week In The Pac-12 officially gives all fans the option of completely ignoring Thursday, which hopefully proves to be the least interesting slate of games you'll see all year. I suppose Washington St. at Arizona might be interesting, just to see if the Cougs can keep up their level of play on the road. Luckily, that happens to be the only game that will be aired in the Bay Area. But the other three games involve the three worst teams in the conference, and can almost certainly be ignored, because UCLA, Washington and Colorado wouldn't lose to any of those three, would they?

Saturday and Sunday are significantly more interesting, however. Colorado and UCLA should be decent, and Washington at Arizona should be both entertaining and consequential. And Sunday is even better. I don't care that OSU is 3-5 and on the road - the Beavers are dangerous and Oregon isn't good enough to drop home games. And Stanford at Cal is, in my estimation, the single biggest game of the week. Plenty is at stake in all three games, and when it's all over we'll be halfway home with a much clearer idea of the contenders and the spoilers the rest of the way.

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