The PAC-12 game of the season between Arizona and Utah happens tonight at the McKale Center. Funny thing is -- it doesn't matter to the rest of the league.
I updated you on the stats and records back on December 26 just before the season started, and here is BN's predictions post. Now we're three weeks in; what have we learned? First, let me update you again on the stats, standings and significant developments.
Injuries are taking its toll:
1) Colorado's Josh Scott is still out with back spasms and now Xavier Johnson is out with a right high ankle sprain. Both are game-to-game.
2) Oregon State has suspended sixth man Victor Robbins for ten games.
3) Stanford's Reid Travis is out indefinitely with an upper leg stress fracture.
4) Washington's starting forward Jernard Jarreau will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and miss four to six weeks.
5) Cal's Jabari Bird is just returning from a stress fracture in his foot.
You'll find all the PAC-12 season results at sports-reference.com, but here is what I think are the most telling results thus far:
1) California 81, Washington 71 at Cal
2) Colorado 62, UCLA 56 at Colorado
3) Washington State 69, Cal 66 at Cal
4) Utah 71, UCLA 39 at Utah
5) Stanford 68, Washington 60 at Stanford
6) UCLA 86, Stanford 81 at UCLA
7) Oregon State 58, Arizona 56 at Oregon State
8) Washington 56, Oregon State 43 at Washington
9) Washington State 108, Oregon 99 at Washington State
For the College Basketball fan, the upsets and unpredictability have been interesting and exciting. Sure, we'd like to see the Bruins romp through the schedule, but that's not happening. In lieu of that, and ignoring UCLA's administrative woes, inability for the team to play up to their potential and the weakness of the conference just for the moment, the race for third gives is a reason to watch. That's a lot of things to ignore, but there's an inkling of hope for the Bruin players.
My quick observations:
1) It's a slow-it-down, defensive league except for UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington State.
2) Importantly to the Bruins, the league is guard-oriented except for Washington, Arizona, Utah and Colorado in that those teams can match-up with the Bruins strength: Looney and Parker.
Here are the standings. Unfortunately, sports-reference has not updated their SRS, so below that are the rankings by RPI according to NCAA.com as of yesterday.
This is what I think right now and why:
|We'll know tonight if they are #1, but that talent is better than expected, and they play a sound team game.
|They're the most talented team, but the loss at OSU makes you wonder. The individuals have not coalesced well yet.
|The Arizona schools are up next, but we won't know more about them until they play at Washington the following week. Reid Travis is out indefintiely, so I think they are trending down.
|Can they win outside of Los Angeles? The three wins in a row are a major confidence booster, and validation for the inside-outside formula, but do the guards with a shaky handle really buy into it? Still, I have them trending up, possibly moving into third.
|Like the Bruins, they needed to get back home, and pick up a win after losing four straight. I like this team. Robert Upshaw is the country's leading shot-blocker, and would be a hard match-up for the Bruins inside and outside. Luckily, we play them once -- in Pauley. I think they will get back on track.
|Tending down due to the Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson injuries.
|Surprising. Running up and down with Oregon. Saturday's game with Oregon State will be telling. Totally opposite styles, and this might be UCLA's roadmap for its game with Oregon State.
|Tinkle doing a helluva a job with nothing. Slows it way down which it’s the traditional strategy when you don't have the talent to match-up. Ultimately, I don't see OSU and WSU cracking the top 5.
|One man team.
|Has a better tournament resume than UCLA, so better hope they stay down.
|Not worth thinking about.
|Not worth thinking about.
The upsets keep coming, and the conference, after Utah and Arizona, is so weak such that I wouldn't be surprised by anything. That said, I think it's UCLA, Stanford and Washington vying for third.
In the next tier, Cal could make a comeback if Jabari Bird is healthy and reintegrates well. I don't see Washington State and Oregon State as talented enough, but they win at home, and perhaps that's all you need this year. Colorado beat the Bruins at home, but their injuries continue.
UCLA has a shot at third. So what you say? Good question. While Dan Guerrero and Steve Alford would certainly point out that they outperformed the media expectation (but not mine), the rest of us can legitimately say: "who cares, are you at least invited to the tournament? " That's still not a particularly lofty goal for the Bruin community, but can the Bruins hang around for March Madness?
It's a tough road to hoe -- the Selection Committee can always point to the embarrassing Kentucky and Utah games, and I don't think there's help coming in the PAC-12 tournament. The Bruins are not built to play three days in a row, and in end, can't beat Utah or Arizona anyway. A win against either team in or post-season could, however. change the dynamic.
I tend to say the Bruins will not get in, but the road would be for the Bruins to finish a strong third perhaps sweeping the Oregon and Nor Cal road trips. At the same time, Stanford and Washington will have to trend downward because they have better OOC resumes, and can would easily jump UCLA from fourth.