Hopefully you enjoyed Saturday's festivities. For the remainder of the college basketball season, you won't see this many games featuring Pac-12 teams. The only squad not to participate on the first Saturday without college football (with all due respect to Army/Navy) was the Washington Huskies, the conference's other undefeated squad.
If you missed, some, any, none, or all of the action, come with me on this journey as we explore the treacherous waters of the Pac-12.
Arizona State 81, Pepperdine 74: Seeing the Sun Devils get up into the 80s in points leads one to believe that their bomb squad of Jon Gilling and Bo Barnes was firing on all cylinders, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Gilling would go scoreless off the bench in 24 minutes, while Barnes would chip in just four points in 18 minutes, but go 0-for-2 from three. So, how did the Devils score so much?
For one, Shaquielle McKissic came to play. On a squad with a gaggle of role players, McKissic has to be the unquestioned leader if they expect to see the NCAA Tournament this season. Playing his best game of the year, McKissic was ultra-aggressive, getting to the free throw line 14 times. He would finish with 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Despite trailing at the half to the Waves, and making only three three-point field goals all afternoon, ASU rode McKissic and Tra Holder (who took an obscene 16 free throws off the bench, making 11) to victory. (Eric Jacobsen also pitched in 20 points and nine rebounds, while going 6-for-7 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line.)
#10 Kansas 63, #13 Utah 60: Despite getting thrashed in the first half to the tune of an 18-point halftime deficit, the Utes came out roaring on the "neutral" court in the second half as if it never happened.
There is very little doubt after having watched them take on some incredibly talented teams early on that the Utes belong in that conversation of teams who can make a deep run in the Tournament. Depending on how many games they do or don't win during the regular season, they may breakout as a sexy Final Four selection from a #3 or #4 seed come March.
Much was made on the broadcast about how efficient Larry Krystkowiak's offense was when it played in front of him in the second half which shouldn't go unnoticed, but what allowed them back into the game was their stellar defensive effort. Jakob Poeltl would lead the way on the glass, snatching 11 boards while no other player would grab more than five.
Despite Delon Wright having another tremendous game on national television (9-for-13 shooting, 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals), the Utes would come up as short as Poeltl's last second heave that attempted to send the game to overtime.
Oregon State 59, Mississippi State 49: The frustrating thing about the Beavers is that we have no idea what they are yet. They don't exactly smoke their non-conference competition, but then again, they haven't played much of anybody.
If one thing is for certain, it's that Gary Payton II is going to be a force to be reckoned with. His size and activity are going to wreak havoc on opposing Pac-12 guards come conference play. As no surprise, he led the way for OSU on Saturday, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Bulldogs are a SEC opponent, and maybe the best squad they'll play out of conference all season, which still isn't saying much. They'd shoot just 26 percent from three-point range and under 35 percent from the field for the game.
#3 Arizona 80, Michigan 53: Boy, this Michigan basketball program is in dire straits. If only I could think of an equivalent of falling from the graces so quickly on the gridiron...hmm, I wonder...
These are the types of drubbings of solid basketball teams that make folks all around the country think that the Wildcats can cut down the nets this year. It helps to shoot over 58 percent from the field, but the starting five plus Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all played in between 23 and 27 minutes, all contributing in a multitude of ways.
This looked as if it could be the game where Stanley Johnson figured it all out. He would go 8-for-10 shooting for 17 points and seven rebounds to go along with his relentless defensive effort, but for the first time all year he looked 100 percent confident in his abilities on the court-a sense of belonging. Kind of how the Wildcats now understand they belong in the National Title discussion.
Colorado 93, Northern Colorado 68: Buffaloes, and Bears, and oh my! The bipolar Colorado offense showed up once again on Saturday night, this time bringing the dynamic bunch to the table.
Five different players would reach double figures in scoring for the Buffs, who were led by Josh Scott's 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Despite leading by only two at the break, the Colorado offense continued to pour in it in the second half while the Bears trailed off.
A statistical oddity was the Bears having more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds. As a squad, they would grab 14 on the offensive glass, opposed to just 10 on defense. Senior forward Dominique Lee would grab 10 offensive and seven defensive rebounds, accumulating 17 of the team's 24 boards.
Stanford 49, Denver 43: Not much about this one was pretty. The Cardinal would make only 14 shots from the field all night long, riding their free throw advantage to the finish line (they would 23 shots from the free throw stripe, opposed to just three for Denver).
Even with the Pioneers knocking home seven threes and leading the Cardinal by eight at halftime, the Stanford defense bailed them out in the second half by neutralizing much of the Denver efficiency. Chasson Randle would have a dreadful night from the field, going just 2-for-14 from the field, but in his absence, Anthony Brown led the way with 17 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists.
The Cardinal would benefit from the Denver roster being paper-thin. Playing only seven players all game long, five were just a foul away from disqualification, while the bench chipped in just two points for the Pioneers. Going forward, Stanford will have to continue to impose their will of ugly basketball on teams in order to win.
Oregon 77, Illinois 70: This is far and away my most impressive victory of the day from around the conference. Playing a true road game against a team that is more than likely bound for the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks were down at the break against a scrappy Fighting Illini team.
Had the Ducks lost this one, they would have moved to 5-4 overall on the year. They've loaded up their non-conference schedule with some solid competition this season in hopes of staying off the bubble, but now it seems they'll need to get hot in Pac-12 play, which they're certainly capable of.
Bringing Joseph Young off the bench gave the team a different dynamic. In many ways, it reminds me of what teams have always done with Jamal Crawford in the NBA, who is as explosive as they come. Young would still lead the team in minutes and get his 15 points, five assists and four rebounds, but the Ducks had more balance in their rotation.
Rayvonte Rice didn't seem to want to let this one go for the Fighting Illini, as he poured in 29 points, including five shots from long range. The Ducks allowed Rice to have his night, but limited the rest of the feisty Illinois front.
California 67, Princeton 57: The curious case of the Cal Bears continues. They now sit at 9-1, having beaten everyone in their path, sans the Texas Longhorns, who are legitimate Final Four contenders. I believe they've made their schedule look more difficult than it really is, meaning they may regress a bit when they finally enter Pac-12 play.
Although, as long as there's Tyrone Wallace, I wouldn't count this squad out. Going off once again for 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals; Wallace was the best player on the court by a long shot. In the game's final four minutes, he'd pour in 12 points, putting the icing on the cake for the Bears.
While the Tigers would make more threes (10) than the Bears took (eight), Cal eventually wore them down in the game's final minutes.
#9 Gonzaga 87, UCLA 74: As the Arizona Wildcats already found out for the rest of the conference last week, the Bulldogs are for real. They went into Pauley Pavilion and knocked down over 58 percent of their shots, out gunslinging a UCLA team that relies on tempo and scoring points.
I absolutely love the starting five for the Bruins. So much so, that I may have them as my best starting five in the conference. Yet, their inability to have anyone come off the bench and be effective is disheartening. Kevon Looney would end his double-double streak after fouling out with 14 points and eight rebounds. Again, Thomas Welsh would chip in just two points off the bench for the only points the Bruins would get from their reserves.
This isn't a loss UCLA should get down about. The ‘Zags came into their building and shot the lights out, which is a testament to their ability. At least now the Bruins now what they'll be up against come March.
There is no rest for the weary as the Bruins next matchup comes next Saturday against the #1 ranked, undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, who certainly have more than enough depth. The Bruins will need some kind of contribution off the bench if they want to have a prayer to compete in that game.
Santa Clara 76, Washington State 67: Lawdy. As an early New Year's Resolution, I promised that I'd harp off the Cougs, but like the concept of having a resolution in the first place, it has failed miserably.
This is the Santa Clara Broncos we're talking about. It was a true road game for Wazzu, but this matchup just never looked good on paper from the start. The Broncos' four losses this year have come to Utah State, Michigan State, Tennessee, and Rhode Island, all about average teams. Their scoring duo of Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark torched the Cougs for 44 points.
The difference between winning and losing for WSU was DaVonte Lacy going cold. Shooting just 2-for-12 from the field, and 1-for-8 from three-point range, Lacy would collect only nine points on the night, leaving the heavy lifting to Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu.
Wazzu has two remaining non-conference games before Pac-12 play starts. Both are at home and are against seemingly inferior opponents. They better get some wins while they still can, because once conference play begins, it may be a while.
Army 85, USC 77 (OT): A week after talking about how fun the Trojans were to watch, they went and lost a game at home to Army.
That's no disrespect to West Point, who has an extremely gifted team led by Kyle Wilson, who threw in a game-high 30 points. Rather, it's the vulnerability of the Trojans rearing its head. This is an inexperienced team that's going to make mistakes a whole lot quicker than they'll be able to remedy them.
It's nearly impossible to win an overtime game shooting 4-for-19 (21.1%) from three and 15-for-28 (53.6%) from the free throw line. Despite a career-high in scoring for Jordan McLaughlin at 24, and a double-double from Nikola Jovanovic with 14 points and 13 rebounds, the Trojans lost a shocker at home to the pesky Black Knights.7-4