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Pac-12 Review: Lots of chalk, blowouts

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The first week of conference play saw lots of home favorites cruise to easy, double digit victories. Will the second week of play see more drama?

In case you missed it, Johnny Dawkins stood up and began jumping up and down, waving his arms, attempting to get the Stanford crowd to make noise in overtime. I'm . . . actually impressed. Kudos, Johnny.
In case you missed it, Johnny Dawkins stood up and began jumping up and down, waving his arms, attempting to get the Stanford crowd to make noise in overtime. I'm . . . actually impressed. Kudos, Johnny.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It's something of a cliche that things don't get interesting in conference play until road teams start winning. By that metric, there was only one interesting game this weekend and . . . DAMMIT it was the Cal/Wazzu game. Sigh.

If the Bears had managed to complete the comeback, home teams would have been a perfect 10-0. But then again, Washington was the only decent team that went on the road this weekend, so it's not like that was a surprise. In fact, the majority of the games weren't even close. Six finished with double digit wins. What the opening weekend did was confirm what we thought we learned from non-conference play: Arizona and Utah are excellent; Stanford and Oregon might be OK; OSU, ASU and USC are unlikely to be factors; and Washington is still coached by master tactician Lorenzo Romar.

Team of the week: Utah

I don't usually like handing out awards to teams that win games they are supposed to win . . . but Utah wasn't supposed to win by an average margin of 28 points. It was one of the most dominating weekends I can recall from a Pac-12 team. And granted, the crumminess of USC and UCLA played a role, but it was still exceptional. And it was a total team performance. The high individual scorer in either game? Jordan Loveridge, with 14 against USC. 10 different players scored against USC; Eleven scored against UCLA.

And I think we need to seriously talk about Utah as a legit challenger to Arizona. For one thing, some of Utah's iffier performances came without Loveridge, probably their 2nd best player. For another, it seems unlikely that anybody is going to challenge Arizona or Utah on a night-in, night-out basis, so the entire conference may come down to their games against each other. And I'm darned sure that Utah can beat Arizona in Salt Lake City.

The Pac-12 is down this year, but they have two legitimately excellent teams that should wage an exciting brawl for the title. In an otherwise underwhelming season, that's enough.

Player of the week: Chasson Randle

I suspect that tough times are coming for Stanford. They have lost Reid Travis, perhaps for the season. Travis was by far Stanford's best two-way rebounder and was still growing as a freshman. Without him they are stuck giving heavy minutes to Stefan Nastic and hoping he doesn't get in foul trouble.

But as long as Stanford has Randle playing well they can beat every team in the conference other than Utah or Arizona. He averaged 21 points/game against the Washington schools and scored the game-tying basket in regulation over Robert Upshaw to save Stanford and send the game to overtime. Like Ty Wallace, he can impact a game even when his shot isn't falling because he gets to the line. He's the main reason Stanford managed to sweep at home, and the main reason Stanford is one of the few teams in the conference with legit NCAA tournament hopes. I'm annoyed he didn't declare after last year and I'm glad he's gone next year.

Game of the week: Stanford 68, Washington 60, OT

I caught the last 3 minutes of regulation plus overtime, and was appalled that Stanford won. UW led by 4 with a minute left and had the ball. Stanford elected not to foul, which mean that all of the following things had to happen:

1. UW had to fail to score 
2. Stanford had to score, and quickly because there would only be 25 seconds left
3. UW would have to miss the front end of a one and one
4. Stanford would have to score again despite UW being able to set up their defense with the best shot blocker in the country looming in the paint.

The odds of all of these things happening? Low. And even if they all DID happen, that would only be enough for overtime. All of these things happened, and Johnny Dawkins was rewarded for his strategic choices. Sometimes bad process isn't punished.

Flaming wreckage of the week: UCLA

Wow. Ten games into the season, UCLA was 8-2 and appeared to be an OKish team. They have now lost five games in a row. The average score in those games? 72-53. I don't recall exactly where UCLA's offensive efficiency was ranked before the losing streak began, but it has plummeted to 130th in the country (yes, I know, still better than Cal, dammit).

Bryce Alford is getting a ton of criticism for his combined 5-41 performance over the last three games, but as I've said many times, he's not the biggest issue. He still has the highest individual offensive rating amongst Bruins. Nobody on UCLA can shoot, nobody can draw a foul, and there doesn't appear to be anybody on the roster capable of solving the issue any time soon. Turns out that losing five players from a good-not-great team is a dangerous proposition.

Next Week

Wednesday

Colorado at Utah, 6:00, ESPN2
California at USC, 8:00, ESPNU

Thursday

Arizona State at Oregon State, 6:00, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at UCLA, 6:00, ESPN
Arizona at Oregon, 7:30, Pac-12 Network

Saturday

Washington St. at Washington, noon, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at Oregon, 2:00, Pac-12 Network

Sunday

California at UCLA, 4:30, Fox Sports 1
Arizona at Oregon State, 7:00, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at UCLA, 7:00, ESPNU

This week is a little heavier on intriguing games, starting with UCLA's last home stand against Cal and Stanford. Either UCLA quickly fixes many of the glaring problems they have, or they face a seven game losing streak.

The Arizona schools will be in Oregon, which probably won't pose much challenge to the Wildcats. But Oregon is looking mildly frisky, and at the very least Joseph Young could go off, so you never know. Plus we might actually learn a little something about both Oregon St. and Arizona St.

Washington and Utah should both earn rivalry wins at home, but weird things do occasionally happen.