This Week In The Pac-12: Crunch Time Arrives

If the Oregon basketball team played HORSE last Thursday, they would have lost very very quickly. - Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

A week of chalk and Cal's upset of Oregon means that the entire Pac-12 is perfectly poised to provide a thrilling final two weeks of the regular season. And we haven't even started talking about Vegas insanity yet!

Each team in the Pac-12 has just three or four games left in the regular season. And yet, almost nothing has been decided. Half the conference still has a mathematical shot at a piece of the conference title. The conference tournament promises to be a free-for-all of evenly matched teams in which almost anybody could conceivably walk away with the automatic bid. And this week features a series of match-ups that will go a long, long way towards deciding everything. This is gonna be fun.

However, this last week of basketball wasn't really much fun. Only two games all week featured a final margin closer than nine points. Those two games were Cal's road wins in Oregon, and I don't think anybody would describe either of those games as beautiful, entertaining basketball. I'd dare say that only Cal fans enjoyed them, and even then the process was painful even if the results were joyful.

Cal's win over Oregon and Washington's win over Arizona State were the only games of the week that would be considered upsets, and the computers don't necessarily factor in the still-injured Dominic Artis into their calculations. Thus, it was chalk chalk chalk all the way, with Cal's win giving Oregon the necessary loss to really make for championship chaos down the stretch. UCLA and Arizona fans, please forward all thanks to Justin Cobbs and Mike Montgomery. We'll pass them along if you like.

If you believe our computer overlords, Oregon is still the favorite to earn the #1 seed in Vegas, splitting the title with Arizona at 13-5. KenPom's system pegs the Bears at 12-6, beating Utah and splitting tough home games vs. Colorado and Stanford. But if the computers are right and Arizona and Oregon both finish at 13-5, a Cal sweep would complete a miraculous comeback and the Bears would be the kings of Vegas, at least to start.

But that's all plenty premature when so much is left to be decided.

Pac-12 Player Of The Year

Just like the conference race, the POY race is far from decided. Allen Crabbe's huge performances against Arizona, UCLA and USC led many to tab him as the front runner, but subdued games in Oregon brought him back to the pack. Here are a few stats to give you an idea of who should be considered:

Points/game, conference play only
Roberton Nelson, Oregon State: 18.6
Allen Crabbe, Cal: 17.4
Jahii Carson, Arizona State: 17.3
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: 17.2
Mark Lyons, Arizona: 16.7

No, citing points/game in a limited sample isn't the best way to figure out who the best player is (although, for what it's worth, Nelson, Crabbe, Muhammad and Lyons all have a remarkably similar Offensive Rating). But who scores most in conference play is probably the best snapshot stat to give us a sense of how voters will likely feel about everybody.

Roberto Nelson isn't going to win because Oregon State is 3-12 in conference. The POY will almost certainly come from the other four on this list.

What's odd this year is that there isn't a post player with a good shot at winning. This conference has some brilliant rebounders - an argument could be made that Arsalan Kazemi, Andre Roberson and Eric Moreland are the three best defensive rebounders in the country. But all three suffer either from inefficiency (Roberson) or underuse (Kazemi and Moreland) on the offensive end, and thus their incredible rebounding won't be enough.

And so the choice likely will come down to Crabbe, Muhammad, Carson and Lyons. All four are big time scorers on top half title contenders with NCAA hopes. Who will win? That will probably be decided by whichever team wins the title.

Next Week In the Pac-12

Wednesday
Arizona at USC
Colorado at Stanford
Arizona State at UCLA

Thursday
Utah at California
Oregon State at Oregon

Saturday
Arizona State at USC
Colorado at California
Arizona at UCLA

Sunday
Washington at Washington State, 12:30, FSN
Utah at Stanford, 2:00, Pac-12 Network

If you're a hoops obsessive, you'll be glued to the couch on Wednesday night and Saturday, because those are juicy slates of action. All six games feature NCAA tournament and Pac-12 title implications, and you'll see plenty of desperate teams battling it out.

Most of the attention will be focused on L.A., where Arizona and UCLA will battle and USC and Arizona State will try to ruin everything for them. USC is definitely upsetting somebody at home, but I fear it will be ASU and not Arizona.

But Colorado's trip to the Bay Area is huge as well. The Buffs probably need a split to continue to feel safe about their at-large chances, but a Cal team sniffing the title and a desperate Stanford team won't make it easy. Well, at least I'm assuming Stanford is desperate - they might be just as close to giving up on Johnny Dawkins.

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