It's the year of parity in the Pac-12 - at least, once you ignore the Arizona juggernaut that clinched the #1 seed in the conference tournament with three games to play and just clinched an outright Pac-12 title with an entire weekend of basketball left. Everybody else? Only four games separate 2nd place from 10th, and there is a solitary one game difference between 4th and 9th. Arizona, USC and Washington State have clearly distinguished themselves, for better or for worse. Everybody else? It's a near random guessing game.
UCLA should be safely in, which leaves Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon, Colorado, California. All confusing, inconsistent, flawed teams. All with a decent chance to make the NCAA tournament.
As of right now, every single one of them is projected into the field by the bracket matrix, although at the time of writing it hasn't been fully updated with the results of this past weekend. Still, if you believe in the wisdom of crowds it's as good a sign as any.
Should all of these teams deserve a spot? Colorado has been mediocre without Spencer Dinwiddie, and he's not coming back. Oregon would be under .500 in conference play were it not for the suspensions of Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. Cal has lost seven out of eleven. But the NCAA tournament has become big enough that mediocre teams get in every year.
The final week and the conference tournament should play a big part. I suspect that somebody will play themselves right out of the tournament. I really, really hope that team isn't Cal.
This Week in the Pac-12
Team of the week: Arizona State
If Oregon had beaten UCLA with the Bruins at full strength, the Ducks would have taken this award. Instead it goes to a Sun Devil team that secured a huge home sweep over tough Cal and Stanford teams, with both wins coming by double digits.
ASU might be the luckiest team in the conference. They have played 3 overtime games in Pac-12 play, and won all three. They have two other narrow wins without any narrow losses. But they took care of business in a big way during their toughest homestand of the conference, and now they just need to get a split in Oregon to earn a first round tournament bye.
Player of the week: Delon Wright
This week, nobody had two really high volume scoring performances in a row, and that's basically what this award is anyway. So how about recognizing an underappreciated player that I haven't been paying enough attention to all year?
Delon Wright scored 21 points on 7-9 shooting, chipping in 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in a win over Colorado. This is a typical game for Delon Wright.
Wright has been the model of consistency he has scored 10 points or more in every single game game of the season against D1 opponents. He always chips in on the glass and dishes out plenty of assists. He blocks shots and gets steals. He excels in every area of the game, and he's the biggest reason why the Utes might have a tiny, tiny shot of making the NCAA tournament if they finish strongly.
Disapointment of the week: California
At least Stanford managed to keep it close while losing two games in the desert. An average margin of defeat of 23? Let's speak of this no more.
Good read of the week
Kenpom, on how much (if at all!) Brandon Ashley's injury has hurt Arizona. in other news, I would kill to have either Ashley or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Next Week in the Pac-12
Arizona State at Oregon, 8:00, Fox Sports 1
Colorado at Stanford, 6:00, ESPN2
Arizona at Oregon State, 8:00, Fox Sports 1
Utah at California, 8:00, ESPNU
UCLA at Washington, 6:00, ESPN2
USC at Washington State, 8:00, ESPNU
Utah at Stanford, 11:30, Pac-12 Network
Arizona at Oregon, 1:00, CBS
Arizona St. at Oregon St., 1:30, Pac-12 Network
USC at Washington, 1:30, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at California, 3:30, Pac-12 Network
UCLA at Washington St., 8:00, Fox Sports 1
Pretty much any game happening in the state of Oregon or California is a big game this week. If you think that Utah has an outside chance at snatching a spot in the tourney (hey, if they beat Cal they'll reach 20 wins) then every single Bay Area game involved a bubble team. Meanwhile, Oregon and Arizona State will both want to solidify their chances, ideally at the expense of each other on Tuesday night.
Perhaps most importantly, USC and Wazzu will play on Thursday for the only time this season.
I wonder if CBS execs thought they were getting the game that would decide the Pac-12 title on Saturday back in December?
Will Cal win out and maybe finish as high as 3rd in the conference?! Will they lose out and maybe finish as low as 9th?! Will we all contemplate how a failure to defend a play the team knew was coming put the Bears in this precarious position?!