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Pac-12 Hoops Roundup: A Wild Weekend and Rockies > Bay Area

February 11, 2020

Let’s get weird. 

That’s exactly what happened last weekend in the world of Pac-12 men’s hoops where there is currently a two-game separation between second-place and eighth-place in the conference. But for those paying attention, this sort of weekend shouldn’t be shocking. This has been a wild college hoops season where the best high-major teams aren’t actually that good (sans Baylor, who hasn’t lost a game since losing to the Pac-12’s worst team, Washington, 95 days ago). Or the good mid-majors have been skating by thanks to weak conferences (see Gonzaga, which has only played one ranked team, or San Diego State or Dayton which haven’t played any ranked teams).

So let’s recap. Coming into last Thursday (February 6), Oregon rested on top of the rankings at 7-3 in Pac-12 play and seemed poised to skate through the weekend with an off-day on Thursday and a Saturday showdown with struggling in-state rival, Oregon State. Meanwhile, Colorado and USC — both 6-3 in the conference looked to catch up with the Ducks with two possible wins each. Colorado followed through, barely getting by our Beloved Bears and then rallying in front of Stanford. But USC faltered, going down in the desert to both Arizona and Arizona State.

Meanwhile, after its hot start, Stanford continued to sputter. Coming off a home win against Oregon, Stanford got bamboozled in Utah, losing to the Utes in overtime, 64-56. 

And then the Saturday chaos ensued.

In the oddly named Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon, the Beavers overcame a 10-point second half deficit and held the Ducks without a field goal for nearly nine minutes en route to a 63-53 victory. Oregon State has now won the past three meetings between the schools, which have now played 353 times. The Beavers stuck to their conference script of losing to the conference’s worst teams while beating the best ones.

This left the door wide-open for Colorado and Arizona, who were sitting at 7-3 and 6-3, respectively. Both teams were playing at home and both teams were playing teams that lost games on Thursday. Instead, Arizona shot 25% from the field — the lowest the Wildcats have ever shot in the 47-year history of the McKale Center’s existence. And UCLA — one of the conference’s hottest teams — left with a 62-52 victory.

Within hours on Saturday, two out of three of the Pac-12’s ranked teams went down. The third? Colorado did what Colorado has been doing and found yet another way to win. The Buff’s 16-point second half comeback win was overshadowed by a gruesome injury to Oscar da Silva. We won’t post the video here because of the graphic nature of it (Da Silva needed several stitches to close a deep gash above his eye), but if you want to see an absolute class-act between both teams after the injury, Google the video. One of the commentators said seeing the teams come together after the injury gave him chills, and I’d have to agree. 

Are Things About to Get Weirder?

This coming week and weekend matchups could set up an even more convoluted Pac-12 slate. First, Colorado travels to Oregon for a massive re-match between the conference’s current top-two teams on Thursday. This is a huge weekend for the Buffs as they play a team that hasn’t lost at home this year (Oregon) and a team that has already beat the Buffs once and seems to only enjoy beating the conference’s best teams (Oregon State).

And then there’s UCLA and USC, which are tied in the conference standings at 6-5 and play host to the struggling Washington schools. There’s a very real chance UCLA, USC, and Colorado could all be tied at 8-5 in the Pac-12 standings this time next week.

Meanwhile, Arizona and Arizona State have two winnable games in the Bay Area and could leave California at 8-4 if they’re able to pull the sweep. On the other hand, our Bears have been a totally different team at home and could ruin the party for the desert schools. 

Overall, the gap between the conference’s best and worst teams has tightened, which has improved the league’s overall standings. According to KenPom, the Pac-12 is now the country’s fourth-best conference, passing the SEC and ACC over the past few weeks. For the most part, the conference seems pleased to beat-up on itself.

The Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament

The Pac-12 is still clinging to five teams in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology with Stanford projected in the 11-seed play-in game and Arizona State listed as one of the first four out. This weekend’s matchups in the Bay Area will be big for the NCAA Tourney chances of both Stanford and Arizona State.

Thanks to last weekend’s chaos, every Pac-12 team dropped positions besides Colorado and technically Arizona State since it wasn’t listed the previous week and is now knocking at the door.

  • Colorado (five-seed in the West)
  • Oregon (five-seed in the Midwest)
  • Arizona (six-seed in the South)
  • USC (10-seed in the Midwest)
  • Stanford (Play-in 11-seed in the Midwest)

The Bay Area’s Tough Hoops Weekend & Cal’s Passing Problems

Not to make this too much about that team in the South Bay, but it was a weekend of what-ifs for Cal and Furd. Both teams had opportunities to upset Colorado — and failed. And both teams were capable of beating Utah but also failed. 

More disappointing was seeing Cal’s offense revert back to its lethargic road game ways against Utah. According to Bart Tovik’s metrics, Cal posted adjusted offensive ratings of 94.9 at home against Stanford, 114.5 against Oregon, 110.2 against Oregon State, and 119.1 against Colorado. Then it hit 74.4 against Utah, which was its second-worst of the season behind the UCLA game, which was 74.0. 

Mark Fox said after the Utah game he thought the team looked and played tired. Maybe that was the case. It was the Bears’ second game at altitude. And for those that know about altitude, it’s usually the third or fourth day at elevation when athletes start to feel it. But Cal is the 326th slowest team in the nation. The game against Colorado had 62 possessions and the Utah game had 63. These were slow games.

Maybe the Bears were tired, but Utah created 17 turnovers while holding the Bears to just 16 field goals. The majority (10) of those turnovers were steals and the Utes outscored the Bears 22-7 on points off of turnovers. Cal managed just seven assists and has fallen to 343rd in the nation for assists to made field goals.

We’ve lamented earlier in the season about Cal’s (lack of) point guard play, but as of late, the issue hasn’t been Paris Austin. The senior guard had four assists, two steals, and zero turnovers against Utah. It’s a team-wide passing problem.

There is still reason to believe this team can make a bit of noise in the second half of the conference season. Cal rebounded from its worst offensive performance of the season against UCLA with some of its best. And, to be sure, Arizona and Arizona State are vulnerable. How this team responds at home this week will say quite a bit about the current morale and buy-in for Fox.

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Pac-12 Hoops Roundup: A Wild Weekend and Rockies > Bay Area

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