Jan 1- I am not picking on Arizona State....just giving a shout out to Princeton for going into Wells Fargo Arena and beating an Arizona State team that had just beaten the Nation's #1 team in Kansas 80-76 the week before.
The Pac-12 has stubbed it's toe at a seemingly record pace during the non-conference season. In fact, it looks bleak for the Pac-12 this season after a disappointing November and December. For the first time in seven seasons the conference is missing from the AP Top 25. Arizona State, the lone team representing the conference in the Poll is now 26th. The Sun Devils the only team to even receive votes this week.
What does this mean for the Oregon State Beavers? Wayne Tinkle's team has had a Jekyll and Hyde look in non-conference play sitting at 8-4 with Oregon on the horizon Saturday in a Civil War conference opener in Eugene. The Beavers really have a chance to impress in conference play. Oh one other stat, Pac-12 teams have a losing record to teams from the West Coast Conference this season. Let's take a look at every Pac-12 team as conference play begins Thursday and their prospects:
Arizona (9-4)- The Wildcats had their 52-game home winning streak end this season losing at home to Baylor 58-49. They barely beat a good UC Davis team 70-68. They have Justin Coleman who was all-world in Maui but has struggled since. It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats fare in their Pac-12 opener on the 3rd in Tucson.
Arizona State (9-3)- The Sun Devils were on top of the world after beating #1 Kansas at home but their debacle at home against a disciplined Princeton team is a huge red flag heading into conference play. The Sun Devils looked like their were the early favorites to vie for the Pac-12 title but now.....they must perhaps prove themselves again beginning Thursday when they host Utah.
California (5-7)- Is Cal awful??? Maybe. Check this out....their non-conference schedule includes losses by 14 to St,Mary's by 19 to University of San Francisco, a one-point win over Cal Poly and their most recent game was a nine-point loss to Seattle University. All in all a season of potential conference struggles for the Bears. They begin Pac-12 play Thursday at The Galen Center against USC.
Colorado (9-3)- The Buffaloes had a decent non-conference season going until they made the trip to Oahu and the Diamond Head Classic losing to Indiana State and the host team Hawaii. They did salvage 7th place in the tourney with a 15-point win over Charlotte. The Buffs could challenge for the Pac-12 title or be an also ran.....kinda like a lot of the teams in the conference.
Oregon (9-4)- The Ducks have displayed some incredible streaky play this non-conference season. Take their 57-47 loss at Waco to Baylor. Down 16 points after halftime they cut that deficit to 47-45 after a Payton Pritchard three-pointer. But then Baylor finished the game on a 10-2 run to seal it. The Ducks will have some key players on the bench or returning soon due to injuries. That could impact their success early in the conference season. In their final non-conference tuneup against Boise State they played without three starters. Bol Bol with a foot injury, Kenny Wooten with a jaw problem and Abu Kigab with an ankle injury. Their return status unknown. They host the Beavers Saturday at 5:pm
Oregon State (8-4)- The Beavers suffered a bit with the inability to finish close games. Their loss to Missouri by six,,....to St.Louis by four and to Texas A&M by 3. They have also been a streaky team. Their 101-77 win over Missouri State featured 16-three pointers. Wayne Tinkle's team has the ingredients to succeed but they need a stellar effort from big guy Kylor Kelly. The return of Big G should help. I think 10 wins in conference play is a real possibility for the Beavs and if they continue to improve could be a factor at the Pac-12 tourney. Their game against Oregon will be on 1190 KEX with Mike Parker and the pregame show Saturday at 4:30pm
Stanford (7-5)- The Cardinal looked pretty dreadful early in the season losing by 18 to North Carolina, by 16 to Wisconsin and by 23 to Florida. They showed signs of improvement in December by taking Kansas to OT. They now have drawn a bad card. Their first conference game is at Pauley. The first game for UCLA since the firing of Steve Alford. More about that coming up.
UCLA (7-6)- The Bruins lost by 15 points at home to Liberty University. Steve Alford was fired 48 hours later. He lasted 5 1/2 years and will be replaced temporarily by Murry Bartow for the rest of the season. His father, Gene, succeeded John Wooden at UCLA in 1976. It will be an emotional night for UCLA when they host Stanford Thursday at 8:pm. A game that is being picked up by ESPN.
USC (7-6)- The Trojans played a pretty tough non-conference schedule. Losing at home to TCU by 15....by 11 on the road to Oklahoma and a double overtime loss at Santa Clara 102-92. The good news for the Trojans they get Cal and Stanford at home Thursday and Sunday.
Utah (6-6)- The Utes played two of the nation's top teams in non-conference play. Losing by 27 to Kentucky. Then in their final tuneup for conference play a 15-point loss to Sixth-ranked Nevada. Their loss to the Wolfpack assured the conference of the worst December by a major conference in 20 years. The Utes must start the conference schedule with arguably the toughests tests at Arizona and ASU.
Washington (8-4)- The Huskies had a pretty good non-conference campaign. Nice wins over Santa Clara and Texas A&M and a near upset of cross-state rival Gonzaga losing by just two points. But they also lost lost badly to Auburn and Virginia Tech. They start off conference play at home on Saturday against the Cougs and then head to the Mountain Schools in week two of conference play.
Washington State (7-6)- A lot of folks think Ernie Kent is on the hot seat on the Palouse. He enters his fifth season at WSU and the non-conference season was pretty awful. Two losses to New Mexico State. A loss at home to Montana State. Santa Clara also beat them at Beasley Coliseum. Ernie Kent needs to get his Cougs on track or his hot seat could turn boiling.
It will be interesting to see how many Pac-12 teams make the NCAA Tournament. Right now the prognosticators say two. Now watch as the twelve teams beat each other up just like the football progams did in the fall.