Three big issues of this past weekend and beyond:
RANKING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF KEY INJURIES IN THE PAC-12
1. UCLA’s Chris Smith, an All-Pac-12 selection last season, is out for the season with a torn ACL. He was averaging 12.6 points and 6.4 points while hitting 50 percent of his three-pointers this season. After injuring his knee against Utah, he returned to the game briefly and made a three-pointer, which is rather amazing. He finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes. The Bruins won their first game without Smith – by three points.
2. Cal’s Matt Bradley (17.8 points) suffered a left ankle injury in the loss to Oregon State. It’s unclear how long he will be sidelined, but the best guess is that he won’t play this weekend against Washington and Washington State. Cal led Oregon State by eight points when Bradley was injured late in the first half. Oregon State outscored the Bears 52-35 after Bradley left the game.
3. USC point guard Ethan Anderson (6.7 point, 3.0 assists) started the first three games of the season but has not played in a game since Dec. 1 because of a back problem. He is considered day-to-day and it’s unclear when he will return.
4. Oregon’s 6-foot-11 center N’Faly Dante (8.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) is out for the season with a knee injury, and Will Richardson has yet to play this season following thumb surgery. Richardson, who averaged 11.0 points last season when he shot 46.9 percent from long range, may be back by the end of January. But the Ducks keep winning.
5. Stanford’s Daejon Davis (13.8 points) has missed the past four games with a leg injury, and Bryce Wills (9.3 points) was injured during Monday’s win over Oregon State. It’s unclear whether either will play this weekend against Washington and Washington State.
6. Colorado’s 7-foot Dallas Walton (9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7 blocks) missed both games last week with a leg injury but is expected back soon.
7. Washington State has had problems with virus-related absences, and starter DJ Rodman missed the past four games, presumably because of his ankle injury.
STANFORD’S HOMELESS JOURNEY
As of Wednesday, the Cardinal have spent 35 of the past 40 days on the road as a result of health restrictions in Santa Clara County, and they won’t be back home for a while. Stanford’s two most recent “home” games were played in Santa Cruz at Kaiser Permanente Area, which seats 2,505 spectators (not that it matters this season) and is the home venue for the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G- League, which has canceled this season. It was also the home of the Santa Cruz Derby Girls of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association in 2013 and 2014. Stanford will play its two “home” games this week in Santa Cruz against the Washington schools, and the Cardinal have been staying in Santa Cruz this week, practicing at local high schools and occasionally at Kaiser Permanente Arena. Santa Cruz is about 40 miles from the Stanford, a 46-minute drive from campus. Come to Stanford, see the world.
DUNK OF THE WEEK – AND MAYBE THE YEAR
Not often does a player follow a three-point attempt with follow-up dunk, but that’s what Oregon’s LJ Figueroa did here with an authoritative slam that seemed to change the complexion of the game. What rating would you give this dunk?
And we forge ahead with our weekly categories:
Top Five Teams (at the Moment)
---1. Oregon (8-1, 3-0) – Despite some player absences, the Ducks have won eight straight and posted double-digit wins over Cal and Stanford last week.
---2. UCLA (7-2, 3-0) – The Bruins have not been dominant, and we’ll have to see how they fare without Chris Smith.
---3. Stanford (6-3, 2-1) – The Cardinal are ahead of Arizona for the time being because they beat the Wildcats back on Dec. 19.
---4. Arizona (9-1, 3-1) – The Wildcats had a relatively soft nonconference schedule, but they have no bad losses and beat Colorado convincingly.
---5. Washington State (8-1, 1-1) – I won’t be convinced until the Cougars win some game away from Pullman, but after taking Arizona to two overtimes before losing, they deserve to be here.
---1. Oscar da Silva, Stanford (19.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 66.3 FG%) – With Stanford playing without Daejon Davis and Bryce Wills, da Silva essentially beat Oregon State by himself.
---2. Chris Duarte, Oregon (16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 43.9 3-pt%) – Clutch production at the end of games and defensive excellence could push him to the top soon.
---3. McKinley Wright IV, Colorado (15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists) – Consistency. You can almost record his numbers before the game starts.
---4. Evan Mobley, USC (15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) – Opponents are already double-teaming him and focusing all their defensive pressure on him.
---5. Tyger Campbell, UCLA (10.9 points, 7.2 assists, 1.7 turnovers) – Fans of Arizona State’s Remy Martin and Oregon’s Eugene Omoruyi will disagree with this selection, but Campbell means so much to the Bruins’ success.
Pac-12 freshman-of-the-year standings
---1. Evan Mobley, USC (15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) – Mobley should occupy this top spot all season.
---2. Josh Christopher, Arizona State (16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds) – Hoping he has not forgotten how to shoot after Sun Devils’ long layoff.
---3. Ziaire Williams, Stanford (11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds) – The 34-percent field-goal shooting is a little disappointing.
---4. Efe Abogidi, Washington State (10.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks) – Level of competition has been suspect, but he is getting better every game.
---5. Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona -- (10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds) – Zero points and zero rebounds against Colorado was offset by his big performance (24 points, 11 boards) in the recent win over Washington State.
Pac-12 Player of the Week
--- Winner: Chris Duarte, Oregon – He had 19 and 23 points in wins over Cal and Stanford while hitting 9-of-19 three-point shots, but it was when he scored his points that was most impressive.
---Runnerup: James Akinjo, Arizona – He averaged 16.0 points, 6.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds while making 8-of-17 three-point shots (47.1%) in Wildcats three wins last week.
Team on the Rise
---Washington State (8-1, 1-1) – The Cougars’ one loss – a double-overtime loss to Arizona – was the game that impressed us most about this team, which was picked to finish 11th in the conference. The jury is still out, though
Team on the Skids
--Washington (1-7, 0-3) – The Huskies were not expected to be the worst team in the conference, but losses by more than 20 points in their past two games suggests more bad times ahead.
Team on a Mystery Tour
---Stanford (6-3, 2-1) – How the Cardinal will fare over time with their extended road trip will define this team.
Numbers of Note
5 – Combined margin of victory in UCLA’s two wins over Colorado and Utah last week.
63 – Years since Washington has had as poor record after eight games as it does this season. Huskies are 1-7 this season and started 1-7 in 1957-58 under head coach Tippy Dye.
67 – Years since Washington had a worse record after nine games than the Huskies will have if they lose to Stanford Thursday. The Huskies started 0-9 in 1953-54, one year after Tippy Dye led Washington to its only Final Four appearance.
18 – Years since Washington lost consecutive games by 20 points or more, as it did in its last two games against Colorado and Arizona.
0 – Number of field goals attempted by USC star Evan Mobley in 31 minutes of court time in last week’s game against Utah, yet the Trojans won by 18 points.
13.3 – Utah’s shooting percentage (4-of-30) in the second half of its loss to USC. The Utes made just one of their final 16 shots, and their best player, Timmy Allen, was 2-for-14 for the game.
28 – Points scored by Oregon’s Chris Duarte in the final six minutes of games against Stanford and Cal last week. The Ducks led Cal by three with 5:18 left before Duarte scored 14 points (on 4-for-4 shooting on three-pointers) the rest of the game in a 13-point win. Oregon led Stanford by four with 5:43 left before Duarte again scored 14 points (including 3-for-4 on three-pointers) the rest of the way in a 17-point Ducks win.
0 – Number of games Washington State has played away from home so far this season.
31.9 – Shooting percentage of Washington State’s top scorer Isaac Bonton, and his field-goal percentage was under 30 percent before he made 10 of 23 shots in the double-overtime loss to Arizona. His overall numbers – 17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals – are hard to argue with, though.
25 – Number of days Arizona State will have gone without playing a game between its Dec. 16 loss to UTEP and Thursday’s game against UCLA, which is expected to be played as scheduled.
2 – Number of full practices Arizona had between Dec. 21 and its practice this past Monday (Jan. 4).
159 – Consecutive minutes Arizona guard Terrell Brown had gone without committing a turnover before committing two in the double-overtime win over Washington State on Friday. That ended a stretch of seven straight games without a turnover, and Brown is third on the team in minutes played.
1 – Field goals made by Arizona guard Jemarl Baker in 14 attempts in the win over Washington State. Before that game, Baker was shooting 47.9 percent from the floor. But he had a season-high seven rebounds with no turnovers in 39 minutes against the Cougars.
7 -- Number of field goal attempts by Stanford's Oscar da Silva against Oregon. He needs more than that.
Quotes of the Week
---“If something was to change then obviously we’d welcome him back, but I don’t think that’s the case.” – UCLA coach Mick Cronin, on the possibility of Chris Smith returning to UCLA next season rather than entering the NBA draft.
---“Now, when we come back to Colorado, the one thing that we do have an advantage on is the altitude. We know that. That’s a factor.” – Colorado coach Tad Boyle, on the fact that there is not much of a homecourt advantage this season with no fans in the stands, but there might be a homecourt edge in Boulder, Colo., which is 5,328 feet above sea level.
---"Without a doubt, very significant. LJ, with those 12 rebounds, about the 8-minute mark we had a timeout and I told them we were down five on the boards. We had been down all night and got that turned around and ended up winning the rebounding margin by one. We kind of got a rhythm going. The ball was moving better. We made some plays for threes." – Oregon coach Dana Altman on whether LJ Figueroa’s dunk against Stanford (see video above) had an impact on the game. Oregon trailed by two before Figueroa's dunk tied the game at 41-41 with 12:43 to go. The Ducks outscored Stanford 32-15 the rest of the way.
Top Upcoming Game This Week
---Thursday, January 7, 7:30 p.m. – UCLA (7-2, 3-0) vs. Arizona State (4-3, 1-0) in Tempe, Arizona – How will UCLA fare without Chris Smith and how will ASU perform after its long layoff in this game televised on ESPN?
Cover photo of Oscar da Silva and Chris Duarte by Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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