UCLA got the only road win in the conference last week! I bet their fans are thrilled!
Granted, when one notes that home teams went 9-1 this week, it's worth noting that home teams were the favorites in at least seven games. But one loss was UCLA to Utah, and the other was Oregon to Oregon State. While in isolation neither loss is much of a surprise, they both still have significant ramifications. UCLA is now two games back of Arizona and loses the tie-breaker - Arizona would have to lose three games and UCLA would have to be perfect to catch the Wildcats for the title. I don't like firm proclamations, but that ain't happening.
Meanwhile, Oregon's loss casts further doubt on what appeared to be one of the surest tournament teams in the conference. Non-con wins over Georgetown, Illinois, BYU and Ole Miss seem less impressive in retrospect. More on the Ducks free fall below, but my goodness. It would take an improbable rally just for Oregon to get a 1st round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
Last Week in the Pac-12
Team of the Week: Utah
The Utes take the award in an underwhelming week for unexpected wins by securing their first victory over UCLA since 1983 as part of a home sweep over the L.A. schools. Beating USC (especially at home) is about as expected as it can get for pretty much any team in the conference, but wins over UCLA almost always mean something. Dating back to last year, Utah is now 7-2 in their last nine home games, with only an OT loss to Oregon and a 4 point loss to Arizona, and wins over Colorado, UCLA and Oregon.
Have I mentioned how glad I am that the Bears don't have to play in Salt Lake City?
Player of the Week: Jordan Loveridge
Nobody strongly stood out from the crowd this week, and I'm certainly not giving the award to Chasson Randle, so Loveridge it is. I'd like to talk about Loveridge anyway, in part because he's such a unique player. He's a 6'6'' power forward. That's weird, at least for major conference teams. Hell, Utah occasionally runs lineups in which he's the tallest player on the floor.
Yet he still is one of the conference's best defensive rebounders, he very rarely gets in foul trouble despite giving up size most of the time, he floats out behind the arc and hits 3s, he has the turnover rate of a ball handling off-guard. He's just a really unique player, and I like it when this conference has weird, unique players. He took apart UCLA's undersized interior with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. The next time Utah is on TV, take time to watch what he does.
Disappointment of the Week: Oregon
Four losses in a row, with an average margin of defeat of eight points, and only an overtime win over Utah in the win column. The Ducks are playing bad basketball, and there aren't many reasons to think they'll play a ton better at the moment. Oregon's early season run seems to be fueled in part by a run of good shooting that perhaps wasn't entirely sustainable. Now that conference play has been reached, Oregon's lack of size has been exposed. Mike Moser is basically the only decent defensive rebounder, and the Ducks are flush with poor defenders who commit a ton of fouls.
On offense, the Ducks haven't had much success finishing inside over bigger teams and when the 3 point shots are falling they don't seem to have anywhere else to turn. The offense isn't bad, it's just not nearly enough to make up for a defense that is a sieve.
Next Week in the Pac-12
Oregon State at Washington State, 7:00, Pac-12 Network
Cal at USC, 8:00, ESPNU
Colorado at Arizona, 6:00, ESPN
Utah at Arizona State, 6:00, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at UCLA, 8:00, Pac-12 Network
Oregon at Washington, 8:00, Fox Sports 1
Oregon State at Washington, 2:00, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Arizona State, 4:00, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at USC, 2:00, Pac-12 Networks
Oregon at Washington State, 4:00, Pac-12 Networks
Utah at Arizona, 5:00, Fox Sports 1
California at UCLA, 5:00, ESPNU
The game of the week is obviously Cal at UCLA in a pseudo-battle for 2nd place in the conference. But the day of the week is Thursday, with four compelling games on. Can Colorado give Arizona a battle? Can Utah finally compete on the road? Can UCLA bounce back from defeat and not look past Stanford? Which team will fall further into a pit of despair: Oregon or Washington? It's a good night to stay glued to the couch.