I really wish I had predicted Oregon's win over Arizona last week - I had an inkling that Arizona's run of escapes would end in their toughest road game to date, but evidently I didn't have the cajones to pick what really wasn't much of an upset. The Ducks followed up their win with a solid victory over an apparently much improved Arizona State. But here's a question - was Oregon's sweep even the most impressive sweep of the week?
Your other contenders are Washington and UCLA. Neither had to beat a team as good as Arizona, but both earned much rarer road sweeps. Last year, only one team (Arizona) managed to sweep the Bay Area road trip, and nobody swept the mountain trip (should we just call it the altitude trip?) To be fair, that was mostly due to Cal and Colorado going a combined 17-1 at home, but Stanford and even Utah do a decent job protecting their home courts relative to their talent levels.
Not coincidentally, Oregon, Washington and UCLA are the three teams still left undefeated in conference play. There will be one less when the Ducks and Bruins face off at Pauley on Saturday in a nationally televised broadcast that is significantly more relevant than anybody would have guessed around Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, could Washington potentially parlay a favorable early Pac-12 schedule into a 6-0 record before visiting Oregon?
This Week In The Pac-12
Game of the Week: Oregon 70, Arizona 66
Has Oregon finally escaped from the post-Ernie Kent dark ages? They haven't been in the tournament for five years but they look to be a lock to make it (if they weren't already) by knocking off the Wildcats behind an impressively versatile performance from E.J. Singler (14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists). There were nervy moments when Arizona started hitting circus 3s to cut what had been a 13 point lead all the way down to 3.
Player of the Week: C.J. Wilcox
I'm on record predicting that Washington would take a big step back this year. For that not to happen, two players in particular were going to have to step up. Unfortunately for Cal and the rest of the Pac-12, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N'Diaye have both been excellent thus far in Pac-12 play. Wilcox scored 46 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in the Bay Area, which is impressive productivity when you consider that a) he's UW's obvious go to guy and b) he's just 6'5''. N'Diaye is basically the same player he's always been, with two huge changes: He isn't fouling people like you get 8 per game, and he's hitting shots. He was always a gifted rebounder and defender, but the weaknesses in his game held him back. That's terrifying.
Will both players keep playing like this? WSU, Cal and Stanford aren't exactly murderer's row, so stay tuned.
Disappointment of the Week: Oregon State
The Beavers have played three Pac-12 home games and they have lost them all by double digits. Granted, Oregon and Arizona are two of the better teams in the conference, but if OSU can't defend home court against Arizona State, it's going to be a very long year in Corvallis. In four years, Craig Robinson still hasn't managed a .500 or conference record, and it's looking bleak in year five. Will he get a year six?
Next Week In The Pac-12
Utah at Washington State, 6:30, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Washington, 8:30, Pac-12 Network
Oregon State at UCLA, 6:00, ESPNU
Oregon at USC, 8:00, ESPNU
Arizona at Arizona State, 11:30, FSN
Oregon at UCLA, 1:00, CBS
California at Stanford, 1:30, FSN
Oregon State at USC, 5:00, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Washington State, 7:00, Pac-12 Network
Utah at Washington, 8:00, ESPNU
As mentioned above, the game of the week is Oregon at UCLA. but a few other contests should be pretty intriguing. The first up is Colorado's visit to Washington. The Buffs are just 1-3, although two wins were last-second defeats to UCLA and Arizona. But they can't afford to fall too far behind. If they can get past UW in Seattle a road sweep is there for the taking.
Sunday's early games are all big ones. How real are the Sun Devils? Hosting Arizona should be a pretty good test of the question. Meanwhile, two teams with greater aspirations will fight to stay relevant when Stanford hosts Cal. Stanford in particular can't afford to drop another home game and fall all the way to 1-4.