Pac-12 Basketball Notebook: Does Anybody Want to Win This Thing?
The four big issues of this past weekend:
1. Pac-12 race is as clear as mud: Another week and no more clarity in the Pac-12 race. Four teams are atop the standings with four conference losses, and six teams are within one game of the lead with six or five games left. None of the other 31 Division I conferences has as many as six teams within one game of the lead. The only conference with five such teams is the Ivy League.
2. Who’s in?: Six Pac-12 teams would be in the NCAA Tournament as of Monday, according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com (Oregon, Colorado, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford). Stanford is barely in as a No. 12 seed, which means it would probably be out when all the conference tournament results come in. UCLA is 2½ games ahead of Stanford in the Pac-12 standings, but with a 101 NET ranking, the Bruins are not in the NCAA Tournament field.
3. The Arizona-Stanford streak: Arizona beat Stanford for the 20th consecutive time on Saturday. That’s hard to believe considering the strong teams the Cardinal has had over the years. The last time Stanford beat Arizona was January 4, 2009, when Landry Fields scored 19 points to lead Stanford to a 76-60 win over a Wildcats team coached by Russ Rennell. Pennell now coaches Central Arkansas, which is 9-17 following Saturday’s 82-67 loss to Sam Houston State.
4. No star, no problem: USC was without its best player, freshman Onyeka Okongwu (concussion protocol), for both games last week, but the Trojans swept Washington and Washington State in Los Angeles. USC had lost to the Huskies by 32 points in Seattle earlier this season with Okongwu playing.
And we forge ahead with our weekly categories:
Top Five Teams (at the Moment)
---1. Oregon (20-6-6, 9-4) – The Ducks rallied from 14 points down to beat Colorado on Thursday, so they hold this spot for this week. This week's tough road trip to Arizona will tell us more about the Ducks.
---2. Colorado (20-6, 9-4) – The Buffaloes may be kicking themselves for losing to Oregon, but they bounced back with a dominant win over Oregon State in Corvallis.
---3. Arizona (18-7, 8-4) – Arizona is back in the AP top-25 after sweeping the Bay Area.
---4. Arizona State (17-8, 8-4) -- The Sun Devils’ five-game winning streak is the longest in the conference at the moment.
---5. UCLA (15-11, 8-5) – That blowout of Arizona at McKale two weeks ago still looms large in our mind. Sweeping the Washington schools kept the Bruins ahead of USC.
Pac-12 player-of-the-year standings
---1. Payton Pritchard, Oregon (19.5 points, 5.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds) – Crunch time is Pritchard time.
---2. Remy Martin, Arizona State (19.6 points, 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds) – Seeing what Martin did in the clutch against Cal lifts him to the No. 2 slot.
---3. McKinley Wright IV, Colorado (13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists) – Wright affects the outcome in so many ways.
---4. Zeke Nnaji, Arizona, Arizona (16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds) – He carried the Wildcats to a Bay Area sweep.
---5. Onyeka Okongwu, USC (16.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) – Clinging to the last spot.
Pac-12 freshman-of-the-year standings
---1. Zeke Nnaji, Arizona (16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds) – Love the motor. Love the efficiency
---2. Onyeka Okongwu, USC (16.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) – The Trojans won without him this past week, but they will need him this week.
---3. Isaiah Stewart, Washington (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) – He might be the best freshman in the conference, but with his team buried in last place and his numbers falling, this is as high as he can be placed.
---4. Tyrell Terry, Stanford (15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists) – He had a poor game on Saturday against Arizona.
---5. Nico Mannion, Arizona (13.6 points, 5.3 assists) – His field-goal percentage (39.3 percent) prevents him from being higher.
Pac-12 Player of the Week
This was a tough call with five players putting up numbers in weekend sweeps worthy of the honor: Chris Smith, Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Zeke Nnaji, Remy Martin.
--- Winner: Remy Martin, Arizona State – Martin had 24 points and two assists in the win over Stanford and 22 points and five assists in the victory at Cal. He made 5 of 6 three-point attempts over the weekend, and his dominance at crunch time against Cal earned him the top spot this week.
---Runnerup: Will Richardson, Oregon: Richardson collected 21 points and nine rebounds in the critical win over Colorado and added 18 points, six boards and six assists against Utah. He beat out Zeke Nnaji by a razor-thin margin on the basis of Richardson’s 7-for-9 shooting from three-point range over the two games.
Team on the Rise
---UCLA (15-11, 8-5) – Arizona State, which has won five straight, could easily occupy this spot, but the Bruins came from further back to move into contention for a Pac-12 title. UCLA has won three in a row and five of its last six.
Team on the Skids
---Stanford (16-9, 5-7) – Not long ago, the Cardinal was in first place. It has lost four in a row and seven of its last eight to drop out of contention. The downfall started when Stanford blew a 21-point, second-half lead at USC.
Team on a Mystery Tour
---Oregon (20-6, 9-4) – After bouncing back from a two-game losing streak to beat Colorado and Utah, the Ducks still might be the best team in the Pac-12. But are they a national power capable of reaching the Final Four? Some days they look that good. Other days . . .
Team Stats of the Week
--- There have been only three road weekend sweeps in the Pac-12 this season, and Arizona has two of them after defeating Stanford and Cal this past weekend.
---The other road sweep belongs to Arizona State, which also beat Stanford and Cal for its first conference road sweep in 10 years.
--- USC committed just six turnovers in its win over Washington State.
Ugly Team Stats of the Week
---Arizona State and Stanford combined for 40 turnovers (20 apiece) in their game last week.
---Oregon State went 1-for-17 on three-point shots in its loss to Colorado.
---Washington State shot 28.6 percent from the field in the loss to USC.
Player Stats of the Week
---Arizona State’s Remy Martin and Oregon’s Will Richardson combined to go 12-for-15 on three-point shots over the weekend – 5-for-6 for Martin and 7-for-9 for Richardson.
Ugly Player Stat of the Week
---Stanford guard Tyrell Terry had a forgettable stat line against Arizona: 25 minutes, 3 points (1-for-5 shooting), 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 2 turnovers.
Quotes of the Week
---“We have to admit it. It was a woodshed job,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle, to the Oregonian, after a 69-47 home loss to Colorado.
---“Sometimes you play well in defeat.” – Cal coach Mark Fox following Sunday’s 80-75 loss to Arizona State.
---“That’s the definition of beast mode,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin, to the Los Angeles Times, on Cody Riley, who scored 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the overtime period of the win over Washington State.
---"When the chips were down he was hitting all kinds of shots. He hits the deep 3, he hit the shot off one leg and stopped, just really high degree of difficulty shots but he gets so much attention from defenses it's really never easy for him to score too often. He continues to surprise me, the things I see him do out there." – Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, to the Arizona Republic, on Remy Martin, who scored 15 points in the final 11 minutes of the win over Cal.
---“All we did was put ourself back in the hunt.” Oregon coach Dana Altman, to the Oregonian, after the win over Colorado. said.
Top Upcoming Games This Week
---Thursday, February 20, 6 p.m. – Oregon (20-6, 9-4) at Arizona State (17-8, 8-4) -- Payton Pritchard vs. Remy Martin with first place on the line.
---Saturday, February 22, 6 p.m. -- (Oregon (20-6, 9-4) at Arizona (18-7, 8-4) -- These teams went to overtime in Eugene. This ESPN game finishes a tough road trip for the Ducks.
Cal High Point of the Week
Cal guard Matt Bradley scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half against Arizona State on Sunday to give the Bears a chance. The Bears ultimately lost 80-75.