This week in the Pac-12: Contenders and pretenders

No, your depth perception isn't playing tricks on you, Jordan Bachynski does indeed have his own munchkin cheering squad. - Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

After reaching the halfway point with an incredibly jumbled middle of the conference, which teams were ready to excel down the stretch, and which had records that were too flattering? Last week revealed plenty.

Last week, Oregon State and Washington were tied for 4th place in the conference, just a single game back of 2nd place. Now both are tied for 7th with Utah, three games in the loss column behind 2nd place UCLA. Doesn't that seem much more appropriate?

Yep, last week served to separate the true contenders from weaker teams who had taken advantage of kind schedules and a few above-average performance to punch above their weight. Unfortunately, the 18 game Pac-12 schedule is unforgiving. Faced with tough road trips, neither the Huskies or the Beavers were able to pick up wins. While winning games in the desert and in the mountains is tough, it's something that top 4 teams in this conference have to find a way to do. There's a reason both teams are in the bottom half of the standings now.

Conversely, good teams earn tough road wins. It's painful to type, but Stanford did just that by throttling Cal at Haas. It's a strong statement that this isn't just another Johnny Dawkins, 9-9 type of Stanford team. What a shame. And what a shame they proved their mettle against Cal.

This Week in the Pac-12

Team of the Week: Arizona State

I usually don't like to reward home sweeps, but Oregon and Oregon State are two solid teams, and ASU isn't so great that home wins can be assumed. And surviving two close games to rise to 7-4 in the conference, within striking distance of 2nd place, is impressive for a team that tends to get dismissed as Jahii Carson and not much else. Which brings us to:

Player of the Week: Jordan Bachynski

Any time a center nearly gets a triple double, I sit up and take notice. Seriously, what impressive gamelines:

vs. Oregon State: 17 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks
vs. Oregon: 26 points, 9 rebounds, 9 blocks

I would have expected Bachynski to dominate the paint against Oregon, but OSU has some decent bigs that might have been able to hold their own. Nope. He controlled the paint pretty completely against both, and now ASU is poised to potentially grab a 1st round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. Congrats, big guy.

Disappointment of the week: Washington

Four teams got swept this week, but nobody is surprised that it happened to Wazzu. And at least Oregon and Oregon State made things tough for the Arizona schools at times.

Washington just rolled over and died. I guess losing by nine at Utah isn't so bad, but 26 points to Colorado? Allowing a Spencer Dinwiddie-less team to score 91 points?! Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson combined to shoot 18-25 from the field, another stunning indictment of Washington's interior defense.

Crazy ASU story of the week

Come on, Sun Devils. Spitting on opposing coaches? Don't you guys have enough damage control to do after the Daily Show story, or the Steve Kerr incident, or the racist fraternity party, or . . . well, I'll stop there.

Next Week in the Pac-12

Wednesday

Stanford at Washington, 6:00, ESPN2
California at Washington State, 8:00, ESPNU

Thursday

Colorado at UCLA, 6:00, ESPN2
Utah at USC, 7:30, Pac-12 Network

Friday

Arizona at Arizona State, 6:00, ESPN

Saturday

California at Washington, noon, Pac-12 Network
Utah at UCLA, 2:00, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at Washington State, 4:00, Pac-12 Network

Sunday

Oregon State at Oregon, noon, Fox Sports 1
Colorado at USC, 5:00, ESPNU

Cal and Stanford both face a road trip that is tough but also manageable. The good news? The current forecast calls for rain rather than snow! Hooray! Colorado will also look to prove their bona fides on the road, where they haven't won without Dinwiddie.

But the marquee matchup of the week is easily Arizona's trip to Arizona State. The Wildcats looked pretty good in their first full games without Brandon Ashley, but they were at home against two teams that probably aren't quite as good as the Devils. Can Jahii score on Arizona's immaculate defense? Will the collisions of Jordan Bachynski and Kaleb Tarczewski create an unbelievable consonant avalanche? And with their biggest rivals coming to town, how will ASU students embarrass themselves this week?! I'M SO EXCITED!

For some weird reason the game is on a Friday night, so I'll be busy watching Cal women's basketball. I suggest you do the same. But if that's not your thing, Arizona/ASU is a reasonable (but still traitorous!) 2nd choice.

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