The first weekend of Pac-12 basketball arrived with a thud. The highlight of the weekend was a bad loss, and a lot of close wins over bad teams. The Pac-12 has been down two years in a row, and is looking well on its way to three in a row. I can't really explain it. California has the most Division I talent of any state in the nation. Seattle and Portland are basketball hotbeds and have had a ton of DI talent coming out of their high school ranks. You'd think the Pac-12 would be the first choice for much of that talent, instead a lot of it ends up elsewhere and the conference ends up in terrible shape. This conference badly needs a year where UCLA, Arizona, Cal, Washington, and Oregon are all nationally relevant at the same time, and maintain that for a few years if the Pac-12 wants to be back among the big boys.
OREGON -- I didn't get a chance to write about this game because I was forced to watch it on ESPN3 in the middle of the night, but I was impressed in spite of the 14 point loss. Oregon held the lead for much of the first half, then had a string of a half dozen turnovers in a row to give Vandy a double digit lead. Oregon battled back to within five, before the Commodores put it away. Ultimately, turnovers, offensive rebounds, and poor free throw shooting did Oregon in, but they played very good defense, shot the ball well, and we're intimidated by playing a top ten team on the road. Much of the new talent looked like they'll be excellent players, and I was especially impressed with Tony Woods, Olu Ashaolu, and Brett Kingma. Jabari Brown really struggled, but it looked like a case of a freshman trying to do too much in his first game. Ultimately, mistakes cost Oregon the game, but they are all mistakes that are very fixable. This isn't a loss that will hurt should the Ducks find themselves in the NCAA tournament discussion, and with what Oregon showed, I would venture a guess that they will be very good this year. Of course, as I'm writing this, Vanderbilt just lost to Cleveland State. Ugh.
Next Up: vs. Eastern Washington, 7:00 Thursday (TV: CSNNW)
Thoughts on the rest of the Pac-12 after the jump.
Arizona: Arizona was the only team in the conference with multiple games last week, and sit at 3-0, albeit with less than stellar competition, taking home games against Valparaiso (73-64), Duquense (67-59), and Ball State (73-63). Ball State held a double digit lead for over 30 minutes of game time, but went almost six minutes without scoring to all the Wildcats to put the game away. Much hyped freshman and Arizona starting point guard Josiah Turner didn't play after having issues being late to team functions, though he hasn't exactly lit up the two games he's played shooting 1-7 with a whole slew of turnovers. In good news for Arizona, Kevin Parrom returned to play 18 solid minutes, but the Wildcats are going to have to figure it out or they'll be in trouble as they travel to Madison Square Garden on Thursday for the Coaches vs. Cancer.
Next Up: at St. John's (Coaches vs. Cancer Classic), 6:30 Thursday (TV: ESPN2)
Arizona State: ASU started the season off with a 78-72 win over Montana State, and coach Herb Sendek wasn't happy about the ugly win:
"We were annihilated on the glass," said Sendek, noting that it seemed like every time Montana State missed in the second half, the Bobcats got a second and third shot. "The other thing that allowed the game to be hanging in the balance time and time again was our turnovers. Careless, sloppy turnovers. . . . We didn't take care of the ball anywhere near the way we need to."
Overall, ASU - the Pac-10's worst rebounding team last season - held a 43-36 edge on the boards, but the Sun Devils gave up 17 offensive rebounds that led to 22 Montana State second-chance points.
Add 22 turnovers, the most in the Sendek era, and the coach's anger was understandable.
Basically, if they're playing a legitimate team instead of Montana State, they have no shot in hell of winning. Only 35 free throws, and an outstanding game from Trent Lockett (17 points, 10 rebounds, four steals) saved the game for the Sun Devils.
Next Up: vs. Pepperdine, 6:30 Tuesday
California: Hey, a team that did exactly what it was supposed to! The Bears had two blowout wins over the weekend, 77-56 over UC-Irvine and 81-54 over George Washington. Allen Crabbe went for 20+ in both games, and at no point was either ever in doubt. Cal is the most balanced team in the conference, and Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez, and Harper Kamp all had great weekends.
Next Up: vs. Austin Peay, 7:00 Tuesday (TV: ESPN2)
Colorado: The Buffaloes won big in a counting game against Fort Lewis College, but a win over a DII school isn't something I'm going to waste time on. They'll get a bigger test this weekend at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Next Up: vs. Wichita State (Puerto Rico Tip-Off), 4:30 Thursday (TV: ESPNU)
Oregon State: The Beavers also took care of business in their season opener, getting an impressive 19 steals in a 24 point win over Cal State-Bakersfield. Ahmad Starks went for 16 points and six steals, while Jared Cunningham had 14 and five. Oregon State has the talent to break into the upper half of the conference, and a dominating win is a good way for them to start the season with confidence. It'll still be a weeks before they're really tested against Texas, but it's a good start for them if they win all of these gimme games.
Next Up: vs. West Alabama, 7:00 Monday
Stanford: The Cardinal also took care of business against a woefully overmatched opponent, netting a 39 point win over Central Arkansas. Given the questions that the Cardinal have coming into the season, they have to be happy with a 39 point win over anybody, but they'll have much greater tests this week playing in the preseason NIT.
Next Up: vs. Fresno State, 8:00 Monday (TV: ESPNU)
UCLA: Rick Neuheisel must have taken over the Bruins basketball team, because the penchant for WTF losses extended to the basketball team, who almost singlehandedly set the conference back with an 11 point loss to Loyola Marymount. Check out Bruins Nation for some hilarity on the subject:
Every demon that has haunted the Bruins over the past couple of years seemed to come out all at once, and the Lions took advantage of it all. Whether it was the pathetic token defense at the point guard position, mostly from Lazeric Jones, or lack of interior defensive awareness leading to easy and uncontested opportunities inside, or slow rotation and no anticipation on the perimeter, the Bruins put on an anti-defensive clinic with the exception of a few blocks by Joshua Smith.
There is no excuse for UCLA to lose to Loyola Marymount in anything. Ever. But especially basketball. And they better figure it out soon, because they have one more tune up before the Maui Invitational, and if LMU punished them, what will actual good teams do?
Next Up: vs. Middle Tennessee State, 8:00 Tuesday
USC: Cal State Northridge had the lead late, but SC took the lead for good with three minutes to go en route to a 66-55 win over the Matadors. The Trojans had three players with 16 points, and five players with six or more rebounds but, like Oregon, SC has a ton of newcomers, and its clear that it will take some time. I don't expect a lot out of USC, but we'll find out more this week.
Next Up: vs. Nebraska, 7:30 Monday
Utah: Utah hasn't tipped off their season yet, which is good news for them, as you can't lose if you don't play.
Next Up: vs. San Diego Christian College (Seriously?), 6:00 Monday
Washington: Washington is 2-0 in their opening week, getting a blowout win over Georgia State and an underwhelming six point win over FAU. The headlines will talk about Tony Wroten getting 18 in his first collegiate game, but he really strugged against FAU, and it was CJ Wilcox who was the star of the weekend averaging 20.5 ppg. Washington should continue to cruise, as they don't really get tested until December, when they have Marquette and Duke in the Jimmy V.
Next Up: vs. Portland, 7:00 Monday (TV: ROOT)
Washington State: The Cougs open up their season in the game I'll be watching tonight.
Next Up: at Gonzaga, 9:00 Monday (TV: ESPN)