It's always Ben Braun's fault. - Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks are the only undefeated team left in Pac-12 play, with wins over UCLA and Arizona to their name. Can they take the regular season title?
Team of the Week: Oregon
Admittedly, it's the Ducks by default - Oregon was the only conference team to win two games this week. But the LA sweep is never easy, and beating UCLA just might propel Oregon to a title run.
A few weeks back, before the conference season began, Ken Pomeroy ran 10,000 computer simulations of every conference race, and the result was that Arizona emerged with the regular season title about 70% of the time. That's a pretty heavy favorite. The team that won second most often? The Oregon Ducks. And as Kenpom notes, there's a reason that the Ducks are that high:
Oregon only plays UCLA and Arizona once each and therefore has a slightly better shot at a Pac-12 title than you might think.
Well, now the Ducks have played their only games against the two pre-season favorites, and they won both games. The Ducks stand at 5-0 in conference, and KenPom now projects them to finish with a conference record of 15-3, identical to Arizona's projection.
Obviously, computer projections aren't the end-all-be-all. Plenty of weird things can happen over the next 13 games. But if Oregon wins the Pac-12 title in part because they were lucky enough to only face Arizona at home it will immediately remind us of another negative externality of the move to expand to the Pac-12.
Game of the Week: Oregon 76, USC 74
Again, this game almost wins by default by being the only close game that includes a decent team. It's a bit odd that the Ducks struggled more with the Trojans than the Bruins, though they seemed set to cruise with a 10 point lead with 3 minutes remaining. But USC went on a quick 9-0 run and should have sent the game to overtime. If you have a chance, find the highlights just so you can see the final sequence, when a mad scramble around the USC basket somehow didn't result in a tying basket. That's the type of sequence a title team needs to survive.
Upset of the Week: Utah 74, Washington 65
Washington won a rivalry game on the road, swept the Bay Area trip, then beat a desperate Colorado team.
Then they lost to previously winless Utah, of course. And they allowed the offensively challenged Utes to shoot 60% from the field. And that's how you lose a game when you shoot 20 more shots than the other team. I don't think anybody expected UW to stay with Oregon and Arizona, but losing to the Utes in the manner that they did was still pretty surprising.
Washington State at Oregon, Pac-12 Networks
Washington at Oregon State, Pac-12 Networks
Cal at Utah, Pac-12 Networks
UCLA at Arizona, ESPN2
Stanford at Colorado, ESPNU
USC at Arizona State, Pac-12 Networks
UCLA at Arizona State, FSN
Washington State at Oregon State, Pac-12 Networks
USC at Arizona, ESPNU
Washington at Oregon, Pac-12 Networks
Cal at Colorado, FSN
Stanford at Utah, Pac-12 Networks
Two games are particularly intriguing. Obviously, Thursday night's UCLA/Arizona game features the two marquee teams in the conference, and now that UCLA has recovered from their early season doldrums, it has added potential with title race import on both sides.
Meanwhile, Washington will get a tough road test. It would have been much more exciting if they hadn't unexpected stumbled against Utah, but still - two fan bases that hate each other, battling at the top of the conference? What more could you ask for? The matchup inside between Tony Woods/Arsalan Kazemi and Aziz N'Diaye should be well worth watching.
Also, Cal/Colorado and Stanford/Colorado will battle for the title of the matchup featuring the two most disappointing teams in conference play so far. Unfortunately, the former probably wins. Sigh.