What a week it was for Pac-12 men's basketball. Just ten days after conference play began, the top two contender's were swept and the Pac-12 is officially wide open. The Huskies are the only team in the Pac-12 without a conference loss and USC is starting to make a strong case as a contender. Join us as we make our pick for the conference game of the week and highlight the most surprising outcomes from the weekend.
Pac-12 Conference Rankings (1/11):
Oregon, Utah and Arizona are all currently in the bottom half of the conference standings which is how very few people imagined Pac-12 play would start off. Many things will change over the remainder of the season, but the parity in the conference is a joy to watch. Washington has arrived as a contender with Andrew Andrews establishing himself as the potential Pac-12 player of the year. Arizona traveled to southern California the healthiest it's been all season, only to lose to both UCLA and USC. Cal, who was riding a 2-0 start to Pac-12 play, left Oregon winless and asking themselves what happened. It speaks volumes about the Pac-12 this year that the bottom two teams, Arizona State and Washington State, both have winning records and a shot to make the tournament.
Pac-12 Men's Basketball game of the week:
For all of you expecting USC vs Arizona, rightfully so I might add, you'll have a chance at redemption later in the post. For now, I want to spend our time and energy on Alford's game winner directly in front of UCLA alumnus Russell Westbrook. Westbook, who infamously tore down the house my sophomore year at Cal, made the largest donation ever by a former Bruins basketball player. This game was the biggest upset of the weekend with #7 Arizona rolling and finally returning their vaunted big man Zeus. UCLA was up eleven with four minutes left before Arizona put together an awesome run to tie the game late. UCLA's final possession of the game, Alford took the ball and did his best Steph Curry impression to sink a the game winning three pointer and send the Bruins to victory. That could very well be the moment that UCLA fans look back to as the definitive point where their season started to come together.
Best conference victories-
Oregon vs Cal:
Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. The Bears traveled to Eugene with a lot of confidence and the Ducks took that away from them for most of the game. In a predominantly defensive game, the Ducks were able to stifle the Bears offense and come away with a victory. Cal entered on a modest three game win streak, and historically performs very well against the Ducks. Oregon looked like a tournament tested team and captured their first conference victory of the season. Quick side note: If you find yourself wondering why each highlight starts with Bill Walton talking about Alaska or the grateful dead, you are not alone.
Arizona vs USC (4 OT's):
In arguably one of the most exciting games of the weekend, USC toppled Arizona in quadruple overtime. Yes, four overtimes were needed to declare a victor this past Saturday. The game was electric from the beginning with high flying dunks, three pointers and the teams stayed even for most of regulation. The teams traded baskets throughout the first three overtimes and in the waning minutes of the fourth overtime Elijah Stewart was sent to the line after getting hit on a jumper. He made both free throws to put USC up by two and left Arizona with a chance to win or tie. The Wildcats struggled to get the ball up-court and eventually were forced to settle for a jump three pointer which hit iron. If you are curious how this game didn't receive the game of the week tag, Arizona had already lost to UCLA and that game had a far more thrilling ending. Credit to the Trojans for winning a big game at home, but the initial upset is always much harder than the follow up.
Washington vs Washington State (OT):
The Huskies have started making a name for themselves in close games. Andrew Andrews, fresh off his Pac-12 player of the week award, nearly had a triple double. Washington freshman Dejounte Murray had himself an impressive game as the Huskies beat the Cougs in overtime. The Cougars needed this victory a bit more than the Huskies and Josh Hawkins had 21 points and 20 rebounds in the loss, which broke a forty year school record for most consecutive double-doubles. Ultimately, missed free throws doomed Washington State as they failed to convert down the stretch.
Utah vs Colorado:
There must have been something in the water this weekend with game winning shots and overtime contests sweeping the conference. Colorado and Utah played tight the entire game and ultimately the fate of both teams would come down to a final shot. How long did that ball stay up on the rim? I imagine as a Buffaloes fan it was seemingly a lifetime. Lorenzo Bonam used a high screen to drive into the lane and hit a contested left hand layup to take the lead. Utah, who I earlier picked as a conference favorite, barely came away with their first victory in Pac-12 play in Boulder. Colorado impressively slowed down Jakob Poetl, who has looked far less impressive in conference play than I expected. It will be interesting to see if Utah can carry some momentum from this victory into their remaining conference schedule.
Who do you think had the most impressive win this past week? What teams do you think are trending up early in conference play?