The latter half of the Pac-12 season is upon us and explosively so. This mid-week schedule is my favorite of the year as we get treated to a doozy in Tucson on Wednesday night and then three very intriguing games on Thursday night.
Stanford @ Arizona, 6pm, ESPNNews?: This game will be broadcast on ESPN News? Does that mean Dari Nowkhah's on the call? Whatever the case, this is shaping up to be one helluva ball game to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the McKale Center. Well, maybe not on paper, as Stanford really hasn't lived up to what they could be. But what if what they did to Oregon was not lightning in a bottle? Because it did happen and they're good enough to do that pretty regularly. Of course Arizona is at home...
Utah @ Oregon State, 7pm, P12N: Earlier this week I did some deep diving on these Utes and came to find that they are pretty unlucky. We also know that they're not that great. But in that dive I came to learn that Oregon State is in fact even less lucky than the Utes (by the way, this luck talk is all derived from KenPom stats). What does it all mean with regards to this Wednesday's game? I dunno. Not much beyond this is a less than intriguing ball game.
Washington @ UCLA, 6pm, ESPN: Following their big and televised drubbing of Arizona, UCLA has lost two straight. Emotional let down? Perhaps. I'm watching the Pac-12 Playbook right now and Ernie Kent just called it the "freshman wall." That could be it, too? Or it could be the general chaos that is UCLA basketball. I don't have a definite answer to addressing UCLA's current state but I do know that they still feature a dangerous lineup. Meanwhile the Huskies' are having a complicated season themselves but have impressed to date. I'll be curious to see which version of Dawgs we see following their huge output Saturday night (96 points against ASU) as UCLA has been the fastest paced team in the conference to date.
Cal @ Arizona State, 6:30pm, P12N: This is the sneaky best game of the night. We'll be looking to see how ASU bounces back from their loss in Seattle and how Cal handles victory after sweeping the Oregons. Favored here has got to be the Devils but maybe, just maybe, the crafty Mike Montgomery has managed to get his group back into winner's shape. For two teams sitting towards the middle of the conference looking up, as we head closer and closer to the finish line, securing these types of victories is key.
Colorado @ Oregon, 7pm, ESPNU: Very excited to watch this one. Colorado is currently wearing the most-difficult-to-predict hat. Which is not to say that Oregon isn't any less perplexing after getting swept at the bay schools. Ultimately I'm not very concerned with Oregon - perhaps a touch concerned should they drop this one - but Dana Altman has garnered enough confidence from me to believe that his group will play well in this one. The big question is how will Colorado respond? They pretty much had it taken to them by Utah despite a furious comeback/near handing away so I'm curious to know whether they're pissed off or defeated. An upset - that's to say an effective version of the emotion - group of Buffaloes could be very tough to handle.
Washington State @ USC, 8:30pm, P12N: The Trojans return to the court for the first time since upsetting rival UCLA where I really think they proved that they're a terrifying group who is just out to have fun. From the top-down, the Trojans are loose and playing for themselves and that's a great place to be. Conversely, WSU is struggling. The great Brock Motum is down to 16ppg in conference which in and of itself should say just how good he is. Because somehow we think that's struggling. Alas, when last year you're dropping 21ppg on 55% shooting, sometimes we think a 5-point, 10 percentage-point dip defines struggling. Then somehow it also wouldn't surprise me if WSU won this one...