What I love about the college game is the contrast in styles. Run and gun, Princeton slow down, 1-3-1, trapping man to man . . . week to week, there's no end to the variety of offenses and defenses you see in one conference, let alone the entire nation.
On Thursday we saw what happens when two slow teams with very different ability levels play. Arizona happens to have one of, if not the best, defense in the county. Washington State happens to have the worst offense in the Pac-12 by a country mile. Mix those two ingredients with a few key Cougar injuries and a 54 possession game and what do you get?
There’s never been more at stake in a 56-20 game.— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) January 3, 2014
You get Washington State seriously threatening the modern record for least points scored, which was set by Rick Majerus and St. Louis in 2008. The Cougars had SEVEN points at halftime and had only managed to get up to 14 with 5:30 left, but by then Arizona had removed their starters, and Wazzu ran off 11 points over the last few minutes to avoid ignominy. The stats are, unsurprisingly, ghastly. 20% from the field, 38.5% from the line, more turnovers than field goals, a high scorer (Junior Longrus) of six . . . it was bad.
And just a few days later, Oregon scored nearly four times as many points as the Cougars and lost! The Ducks, of course, are one of a few teams in the conference that prefer to push tempo, and Colorado decided that if Oregon wanted to make their lungs burn at altitude that they would run right with them. Maybe the Ducks didn't have their best legs, because they committed a ton of fouls and shot unusually poorly from the field, allowing Colorado to earn a home sweep and hand Oregon their first loss of the season.
And yet Colorado's 100 points wasn't even the highest scoring mark, nor was Colorado/Oregon the fastest game of the week. That title goes to the new look UCLA/USC rivalry featuring two coaches currently committed to fast basketball (although it's worth noting that Alford has never had his teams play this quickly before). Unfortunately for USC and Andy Enfield, the Trojans don't have nearly the talent to make his Dunk City system (or, really, any system) work yet. UCLA ran away with the 107-73 win that might just make Bruins Nation briefly not hate Steve Alford.
Now that we're into Pac-12 play, on to the weekly awards:
Team of the week: Washington
This award will frequently be given relative to expectations, otherwise Arizona would win most every week.
The Huskies surprised everybody by easily handling Arizona State and then actually giving Arizona a game. They even led the Wildcats at the half! Maybe the return of Desmond Simmons really does make a huge difference on defense, and maybe there are enough pieces around C.J. Wilcox to keep Romar's group above water in conference play. We'll see.
Disappointment of the week: Arizona State
Maybe it's a little harsh to punish ASU if I'm also saying that the team they lost to is the team of the week. But come on, an 11 point home loss to a team that hasn't beaten anybody impressive? I guess the problem for ASU is that if Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski aren't combining for 40+ points, where is the scoring going to come from? I know that those two will get it going eventually, but UW still has a bad defense, so it makes you wonder what happened on Thursday.
Player of the week: Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
No single player really stood out, so I'm giving the award to Colorado's point guard, for scoring 23 and dishing out 7 assists and generally leading the most impressive offensive assault of the first week. Oregon might not have an elite defense, but scoring 1.28 points/possession on them is still a damned impressive showing, and Dinwiddie is the biggest reason.
Next Week in the Pac-12
Colorado at Washington State, 6:00, Pac-12 Network
Utah at Washington, 8:00, Pac-12 Network
Arizona at UCLA, 6:00, ESPN
Arizona State at USC, 7:00, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at Oregon State, 7:00, Pac-12 Network
California at Oregon, 8:00, Fox Sports 1
California at Oregon State, 5:00, ESPNU
Colorado at Washington, noon, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at Oregon, 2:00, Fox Sports 1
Utah at Washington State, 4:00, Pac-12 Network
Arizona at USC, 6:00, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at UCLA, 7:00, ESPNU
The game of the week is obviously Arizona at UCLA, and it's even more important than most realize. You may not be aware, but Arizona and UCLA play just one game this year. If UCLA were to win at home (Kenpom gives them a 39% chance, for what it's worth) then the Bruins would have a one game lead and the tie-breaker over Arizona. It's hard to conceive of many ways in which Arizona doesn't win the conference title, but this is one of the relatively plausible ways.
Cal and Oregon gets 2nd billing on Thursday night after the UCLA/Arizona clash, and the Bears and Beavers are the only game in town on Saturday. Which means that, rather than watching those boring old NFL playoffs, you can sit on the couch and enjoy nine hours of Pac-12 hoops instead. The best game of the day is probably ASU/UCLA, although Colorado/Washington might be deceptively good as well.
As always, watch for road wins. Three teams (Cal, Washington and Oregon) managed to pick up solitary road wins this week. With the good teams generally on the road this week, will there be more? I certainly hope so.