This didn't happen this week, but it was too funny to not use. - USA TODAY Sports
Last week made things a bit more clear, but it's still a three team race for the title. After holding serve at home, can Oregon and UCLA do so on the road?
Woe be unto the non-believer who doubts the power of home court advantage. Ten games were played this week, and exactly one game finished with the road team on top. That game featured the home team failing to tie the game on a slam dunk that very easily could have been a made lay-up or 5 foot jumper. Whoops.
To be fair, in most games this week the home team would have been considered the better team on a neutral court anyway. But Arizona, who needed to win out and get some help to grab an unshared conference title, instead was swept away . . . and neither game was especially close. Arizona State at least put up a fight, losing one game in overtime and another by one. That will be cold comfort if the Sun Devils don't take the conference tournament in Vegas, which will probably be necessary.
Will the power of home court advantage swing games this week? If so, our Bears are in good position to take advantage. UCLA (5-2) and Oregon (5-2) have both been excellent so far away from home, as you would expect from any team competing for a conference championship. Both will have to prove themselves again, or risk sharing the title or worse.
Last Week In The Pac-12
Team of the week: UCLA
Game of the Week: Arizona State at UCLA
You all know how much I don't want to admit it, but I have no choice: I was very impressed with the Bruins last week. So let's just get all of the Bruin praise out of the way now. I didn't think there was a way for UCLA to escape the weekend unscathed. ASU just seems like a bad match-up for the Bruins, because the Devils have the size to exploit UCLA's weakness on the glass, and a point guard that nobody can stay in front of.
Sure enough, ASU won the rebounding battle and Carson scored 22 with 7 assists. But UCLA did a great job of not fouling Carson and sending him to the line, and Kyle Anderson kept UCLA nearly even on the glass. That was enough to keep a brilliant effort from their freshmen from going to waste, even if it did take overtime.
Then they beat Arizona in a game that didn't feel nearly as close as the final score, and now I have to face the prospects of UCLA winning the Pac-12. Yeech.
Player of the Week: Arsalan Kazemi
The real answer to this question is Kyle Anderson, who has been outperforming the typically impressive Shabazz Muhammad over the past few weeks. But I've already offered enough praise to the Bruins, and I want to talk about Kazemi before his short time out west ends.
I hatespect Kazemi. He's hate-able in the same way that Jorge was hate-able - a high motor gnat who is willing to do anything within the rule books to win. If he had single-handedly carried Oregon over Cal in Eugene, I'd truly hate him, but luckily Justin Cobbs saved us. I respect him because he's like watching Jorge, except in the body of a 6'7'', 226 pound bowling ball. He's an elite, elite rebounder, he's the 2nd most efficient offensive player in the conference, and he's the best big-man ball thief I can recall. If Dana Altman has made one mistake, it's not giving him more minutes and not designing more plays to go to him. His energy (and 17 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists) carried Oregon over Oregon State.
Thankfully, he's graduating.
This Week In The Pac-12
UCLA at Washington State, 6:30, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at Cal, 8:00, ESPN2
USC at Washington, 8:30, Pac-12 Network
Oregon at Colorado, ESPN2
Oregon State at Utah, ESPNU
UCLA at Washington, 11:00, CBS
Oregon at Utah, 11:30, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at Arizona, 1:30, FSN
Oregon State at Colorado, 1:30, Pac-12 Network
USC at Washington State, 3:30, Pac-12 Network
If it didn't happen to be the final, deciding weekend of conference play this wouldn't be a terribly exciting slate of games. There isn't a single game between the four teams still alive for a slender slice of the championship.
And so the focus will largely be on three games: Stanford/Cal, UCLA/Washington and Oregon/Colorado. Sure, there's some rivalry intrigue when Arizona hosts Arizona State. And maybe the lowly Cougars can give UCLA a tough time in Pullman.
Saturday features a bunch of oddly early start times to avoid conflicts with the women's basketball tournament in Seattle. If Oregon beats Colorado on Thursday, much of the excitement on Saturday will be gone, depending on how much faith you have in Utah pulling off the home upset.