Miller: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Parity Already Apparent

Week 10: Upshot From Last Week, Outlook & Upcoming Games

Posted on January 8, 2020

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Upshot from Last Week: The Cannibalism Begins

Boy, that escalated quickly. 

After the first week of Conference play, only Arizona and Stanford remain undefeated. Not coincidentally, both the Wildcats and Cardinal played just a single home game against their substantially outmatched rival, while the rest of the Conference of Champions beat up on each other. There were several shocking upsets in Week One, keeping with the unpredictable theme of college basketball this season.

Colorado took down then No. 4 Oregon in the most nationally relevant game from the first week of Conference play. The Buffaloes controlled most of the game, and held the high-powered Ducks to just 16.7% from the three-point line. The nine-point win marked CU’s ninth win in a row over Oregon at the CU Events Center, setting up the Buffs for an early edge in the Conference title race. Unfortunately, the ecstatic high came crashing down when Ethan Thompson and Oregon State‘s suffocating 1-3-1 zone came to town on Sunday. Shockingly, OSU left Boulder with an eight point victory, and a split of their Mountain trip. 

The Oregon Ducks managed to split their road trip too, securing a respectable five-point victory over Utah at the Huntsman Center. Payton Pritchard led the way with 19 points, battling through a bloody nose to close out the game. Will Richardson played a big role off the bench, and without his performance UO may have been swept by the Mountain schools.

Though the Utes were not able to get the job done against Oregon, Larry Krystkowiak guided his young team to a win over Oregon State earlier in the week. The split of the Oregon schools was a realistic outcome, and the trio of Timmy Allen, Both Gach, and Rylan Jones should give Utah fans tremendous hope for the direction of the program. Despite being one of the youngest teams in the nation, the Utes are half a step away from the best teams in the Pac-12.

UCLA’s Cody Riley celebrates UW win his teammates. | UW Athletics

In perhaps the biggest shock from Week One, Mick Cronin and the UCLA Bruins went into Seattle and beat Washington. Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw this coming. To be fair, UW played a substantial portion of the game without Jaden McDaniels, who fouled out with around fifteen minutes left in the second half. Regardless, the loss highlighted the lack of depth on Mike Hopkins’ team, and the pivotal role McDaniels plays in their success. In a display of cruel fate, the Bruins followed it up with an overtime loss to Washington State, splitting their Apple State road trip.

To their credit, the Huskies shook off the UCLA loss and played like it never happened against USC. The Trojans were one of the hottest teams in the Conference heading into this game, coming off an opening win over WSU, and not having suffered a defeat since November. With limited resistance, the Dawgs manhandled Andy Enfield’s squad, blowing out the Men of Troy by 32. Washington’s zone defense looked elite, and Nate Roberts had his coming out party, perhaps supplying the answer to Hopkins’ depth questions.

On the eastern side of the state, Kyle Smith’s Cougars proved they are not a team to overlook. The split of the LA schools is indicative of the rebuild happening in Pullman, and if he continues to split series like this, he may find himself as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year when it’s all said and done.

Down in the desert, Arizona dismantled rival Arizona State in a 28-point trouncing at McKale Center. The Sun Devils were ice cold from the field as the Cats frustrated their offensive flow, limiting Bobby Hurley’s team to just two assists. Apart from Remy Martin, ASU doesn’t have a legitimate offensive threat. For the Wildcats, Christian Koloko has emerged as a pivotal contributor who likely continues to earn more playing time. More importantly for UA, Stone Gettings finally returned from injury after a five-game absence, filling an important piece that was absent in the Cats’ losses.

In a mirrored game, Stanford took down rival California in a 16-point victory at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal held the Bears to just three assists, while forcing 18 turnovers, and posting five blocked shots. Daejon Davis’ role has expanded to include more scoring, which is pivotal as Tyrell Terry adjusts to Pac-12 play. Oscar da Silva posted just 8 points in the victory, his lowest output of the season, showing the Tree can win even when their leading scorer has an off night.

General Outlook: No Need to Panic

Five letters: R-E-L-A-X. We’re going to be Okay.

Splitting road trips in the Pac-12 is more common than rain in Seattle. As a result, teams drop games at home. It’s the nature of the Conference. While those early home losses can be overcome by road sweeps, a poor performance over a two-week stretch has the potential to knock a team out of contention. 

With the Washington schools traveling to the Bay Area, the Arizona schools heading to Oregon, and the rivalry games for the Mountain and LA schools, the second week of Conference play is primed to separate the contenders from the rest. 

Upcoming Games (January 9-January 12)



No. 24 Arizona at No. 9 Oregon
Thursday, January 9
6:00 p.m., ESPN

In arguably the biggest game of the Pac-12 season, Arizona heads to Eugene for a battle with Oregon. The Wildcats are 1-5 at Matthew Knight Arena, and haven’t beat the Ducks on their home court in five years. The Cats bring one of the most potent offenses in the country, which will be challenged by Dana Altman’s stout press defense. UO’s ability to knock down threes could decide the game, as the Ducks are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams. On the other hand, strong performances from UA’s Stone Gettings and Christian Koloko could be the X-Factor to a Wildcat victory. 



Washington at Stanford
Thursday, January 9
6:00 p.m., FS1

The Huskies can erase their shocking defeat to UCLA with a sweep of the Bay Area schools, and it starts with handling a good Stanford team. The ongoing question for the Dawgs is their depth, and in order to exploit that disadvantage Jared Haase will likely run his offense from the inside out. The entry into the post, and the recognition by Oscar da Silva and Spencer Jones to make the right pass, or back their defender down the lane, will likely be the key to Stanford’s success. Any foul trouble by Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, or Nahziah Carter could spell trouble for UW. Even so, if Washington forces the Tree to settle for three’s, the Dawgs could squeak out a victory even while dealing with foul trouble. 



Washington State at California
Thursday, January 9
7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

There may not be a more winnable conference game on Cal’s slate than this matchup, and a loss could spell disaster for the remainder of the Bears’ conference season. Unfortunately for Mark Fox, Washington State is a substantially improved team from a year ago. CJ Elleby and Isaac Bonton are the pistons to the Cougar engine, and a bad game from either could tip the scales in favor of California. Congruently, Matt Bradley is the most important player for Mark Fox. The game plan for both teams is clear: shut down the opposing team’s stars. 



Arizona State at Oregon State
Thursday, January 9
8:00 p.m., ESPNU

Though its early in the Conference season, this game feels like one the Beavers can’t afford to lose. The Sun Devils are reeling after a series of devastating defeats, and a loss to Bobby Hurley’s team would put OSU at a substantial deficit in the Conference race. The tried and true method for success in the Pac-12 is to win at home and split on the road. Wayne Tinkle’s team did their job on the road, now they need to handle business at home. 



Washington State at Stanford

Saturday, January 11
3:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network

If, at the beginning of the year, someone told you this game had upset potential, you would have laughed in their face. The reality is Washington State has a puncher’s chance of taking down the Cardinal. The likelihood of an upset decreases dramatically if the Tree are coming off a loss to UW earlier in the week, but if Stanford takes down the Dawgs it is not unfathomable for this game to be closer than expected. Regardless, it’s entirely possible that the first road sweep of the Kyle Smith Era is on the line in this game. 


Washington at California
Saturday, January 11
5:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network

The harsh reality is that this game is likely just a stat night for Washington, with potential for highlight plays that make ESPN’s Top 10. Isaiah Stewart may put up 30, and Jaden McDaniels could have a career night. In fairness to Mark Fox and Cal, the Bears have non-conference experience against athletic teams who compare to what the Huskies put on the floor. Unfortunately, the simple fact is Cal is substantially out-gunned. 


Saturday, January 11
7:00 p.m., ESPN2

A pivotal game for both schools, the Battle For LA is set to be a dramatic clash. The Trojans are seeking a bounce back performance after getting manhandled by Washington, and UCLA is trying to recapture its mojo after losing in overtime to Washington State. On top of that, Mick Cronin faces Andy Enfield for the first time, casting off a coaching battle that may continue for the next decade. USC has the clear talent advantage, but Cronin can overcome that with superior coaching. 


Arizona State at No. 9 Oregon
Saturday, January 11
7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Depending on how things go earlier in the week, Oregon may be looking to sweep the Arizona schools or salvage a split. Similarly, ASU is either gunning for a sweep or picking up the pieces of a broken season. For the Devils, a win would revitalize their season and set them on a better path heading into the meat of Pac-12 play. For the Ducks, defending home court is key to their expectation of winning the Conference Regular Season title. 




Utah at No. 25 Colorado
Sunday, January 12
3:00 p.m., ESPNU

The Utes head to Colorado in arguably their biggest game of the year. While Utah had numerous non-conference tests, those games mean nothing in the race for a Pac-12 title. If Larry Krystkowiak is going to take his program to the next level this season, this game is a must-win. Symmetrically, Colorado can’t afford to lose a second game at home in order to have a realistic shot at winning the title. Road wins are hard to come by in the Conference of Champions, and the best teams defend their home court as if their lives depended on it, because in the race for the Pac-12 crown, it does.





No. 24 Arizona at Oregon State
Sunday, January 12
7:00 p.m., FS1

It’s not often that the Beavers take down Arizona at home, as the Cats are 12-5 in Corvallis since the 2000-01 season, having won three in a row and five of the last six. To snatch a victory, OSU needs to control the paint by blocking shots. If UA can score inside with relative ease, or gets hot from three, it may be too tough of a task to overcome. Putting aside the defensive game plan, Tres Tinkle has to play efficient on offense, and Ethan Thompson must shoot the ball well. Even so, Arizona’s depth is a significant challenge for OSU to overcome.

—More from Dane Miller—