LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10: Jared Cunningham #1 of the Oregon State Beavers goes up for a shot against the Arizona Wildcats in the first half in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Pretty sure when you started filling in your national tournament brackets, you had Beaver on the mind to represent the Pac-12.
When you look at all the teams around the Pac-12, it's hard not to look around and be a little disappointed with what you see. UCLA is 0-3 against Division I opponents, and their best effort has probably been a 15 point loss to Kansas. Cal, the second supposed best team, got detonated against Missouri last night and made it hard to take them seriously as a national contender. Washington went to St. Louis for a bleary-eyed Sunday morning start and were doubled up at halftime.
Washington State showed spirit in their comeback against Gonzaga in their midnight showing in Spokane, but spirit won't get them too far in the conference. Oregon has struggled from the get go and are down their top recruit. Arizona State, USC and Utah have been struggling. Stanford has played no one of importance; we'll know more about the Cardinal when they play Oklahoma State.
So that leaves us with ... Hope-In-Law in Corvallis, who has perhaps the most talented player in the conference.
Craig Robinson and the Oregon St. Beavers proved they could beat a talented if young Texas Longhorns squad, and then showed more mettle against the ranked Vanderbilt Commodores by taking it to the buzzer. Jared Cunningham was balling before Vanderbilt committed themselves to shutting the talented junior down, and OSU still managed to produce enough offense and defense to stay in the game.
This could be just false hope, and we won't know until conference play whether Oregon State can really compete with the best of the Pac-12. OSU plays one of the easiest Decembers in the conference, and should roll over all their opponents. Oregon State still is pretty poor defensively and needs to work on their outside shooting if they don't want the opposition to pack the paint. Still, if Cunningham can score with the best of them, OSU might be a sleeper to not only get to the NCAA tournament, but also win the Pac-12.
It's kind of shooting high. But at least for now, there's reason to believe in hope in Corvallis.