Pac-12 Basketball Weekly Round Up Dec. 3rd
By: Adam Butler/Pachoops
The unfortunate theme of the previous week’s Pac-12 games was losing. And we knew losing would happen. It’s inevitable. The last undefeated team was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. When things don’t happen for 36 years it means it’s really hard to do. That’s just science folks. This week it was Oregon, Colorado, and Cal getting their first taste of the ineludible. Disappointing no doubt but an opportunity to learn from a new experience. The preseason is like puberty for college hoops; you’re figuring all sorts of things out and suddenly there’s hair there (admittedly, the hair reference is irrelevant and cannot be made into a basketball metaphor). Now I’m not saying teams need to seek out losses but they do need to get out of their comfort zone (see: @ Wyoming, vs #22, @ Wisconsin). We get better by being uncomfortable and each of those teams – while they lost – learned a little more about themselves and should be the better for it.
You know what doesn’t make us better? The other type of losing and that’s my transition to Josh Smith and UCLA. You’re aware that he transferred from Westwood this week and you’re aware of the entire saga that his career had become. It’s a bummer of a tale and I sincerely hope he figures things out for himself. He’s now gone from a spiraling UCLA program that also lost Tyler Lamb. That now makes it just under a bajillion transfers from – and there’s no two ways about this – Ben Howland. Players seem to be escaping a program run too rigid to adjust to the players it has. Have you watched those guys play this year? They look uncomfortable out there. I mean, Shabazz Muhammad is supposed to be the best player in the country yet he looks like he’s still got training wheels on and I don’t think that’s his fault. It’s a painful brand of hoop right now in Westwood and I can’t stand seeing that zone. It just looks weird to see UCLA players in a 2-3. And if the theme of this column is to be losing, I think UCLA could stand to lose all of the Wear family’s jumpers. Those guys should be nowhere near the perimeter yet every time I check in, I see those neon shoes just inside the three point line jacking up 18-footers. Lose that.
Then there’s the losing and near losing in Seattle. Albany? Colorado State? If it hadn’t been for Fullerton double Norman Powell-ing (if you missed it, Fulerton twice tied the game and then committed fouls to send UW to the line) they may have sustained another home loss. I’m not into this fellas! I like a lot of UW’s pieces and I don’t think they’re as bad as some people might be quick to say, but at a certain point they may just become who they are. I’ll be interested to see how that season progresses.
Ok, so I’ve now set a negative tone and I want to change that. How’s about them Wildcats, eh? You guys know I’m a homer but that group can play. You also know – because you’ve read this far – that I want to see teams challenge themselves. Arizona has not stepped far enough out of their comfort zone and likely won’t be significantly challenged until they host what appears to be a very good Florida squad, 12/15. I wish I could be in Tucson for that one. It’s the most marquee non-conference home game I can recall since maybe a 2007 tilt against number #9 Texas A&M. Alas, time will tell, but things are looking spicy in Tucson. I also don’t think people are taking Oregon State as seriously as they might need to. They’re getting themselves good and battle tested this preseason and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ahmad Starks start to move up some POY ladders. Just keep an eye on the little guy for me.
We’ve got a good week ahead of us for Pac-12 hoop if coaching hunts don’t distract you. I’m interested to see USC visit Nebraska. The Trojans have been laying low for a bit – haven’t played for more than a week – and have yet to live up to their under-the-radar billing. Also worth watching is your Buffs looking to exact revenge on CSU, Gonzaga visiting Pullman, UNLV visiting Seattle AND Berkeley, and then, back to CU, their return to Kansas. I know you’re ready for it. Please know that I want you to win for reasons far beyond Pac-12 loyalties or even liking Colorado – which I do.
Enjoy the week. Be great.