We have officially had our first chaotic weekend of college hoops. Granted, it only seems chaotic due to the ranking system, which is incredibly flawed if for no other reason than the top teams mauling's of soft non-conference competition (for the most part) during the early part of the year.
Regardless, to have the undisputed #1 Kentucky Wildcats sent to double overtime in back-to-back games, and see the #2 Duke Blue Devils, #4 Wisconsin Badgers, #5 Louisville Cardinals, and finally, the #7 Arizona Wildcats all fall in one weekend-well, who says the Madness has to be contained to March?
UCLA 73 (10-7, 2-2), California 54 (11-6, 1-3): Maybe more shocking than any upset of the weekend, the UCLA Bruins trounced the Cal Bears. After watching the Bruins earlier in the season, it would have been a shock to see them trounce a high school prep team, but with all five starters in double figures, UCLA would take a huge step in the right direction and blast the Golden Bears.
There are a multitude of options as to who was the best player on the floor for the boys from Pauley, but Bryce Alford is the obvious candidate. While his only made shots would be three-pointers, he'd knock down three of them en route to an 11-point, nine-assist, six-rebound night that his team desperately needed. Freshman sensation Kevon Looney would be the leading scorer with 15, while snagging seven rebounds as well.
For the Cal Golden Bears, it was a whole lot of Jordan Mathews, and a whole little of everyone else. Mathews would stroke home six threes, scoring 23 points in total. Big man David Kravish would help with nine points and 14 rebounds, but the rest of the supporting cast was M.I.A. It's worth mentioning that this was indeed Jabari Bird's first game back, although he would play only eight minutes and go 0-for-3 from the field.
After starting the season ablaze, Cal has regressed. And after starting the season so miserably, the Bruins seem to be getting into a groove.
Oregon State 58 (11-4, 2-1), #7 Arizona 56 (14-2, 2-1): Admit it, you laughed at Gary Payton when he selected the Beavers for the upset just because his son was on the team. Bias, you said! But what you didn't know was that Payton is clearly, a prophet.
Pace of play has been a much-discussed topic around college hoops circles this year; especially with teams that play in super slo-mo being nauseatingly effective (i.e. Virginia, Wisconsin). You would expect a game with a 58-56 final score to be cluttered with horrific shooting lines, or endless turnovers, or an obscene amount of missed free throws; yet, none of that was really the story. Both teams played the game down to a grinding halt and the Beavs just out-executed one of the best execution teams in the country.
After Langston Morris-Walker drove to the basket for the game-winning easy lay-up, T.J. McConnell's running bank shot from the left elbow would go begging, and they'd storm the court in Corvallis. Morris-Walker would finish with 12 points and eight rebounds, while teammate Gary Payton II poured in 10 points, to go with his nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
The Wildcats would go an uncharacteristic 4-for-17 (23.5%) from three-point range, but there was no one shooter who could be put to blame. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would lead the team in scoring with 14 points, but 10 of those would come from the free throw stripe. As a team, the ‘Cats would turn the ball over just five times all game; it wasn't a lack of effort that failed them, the ball just didn't go in the hoop.
This may soften the juggernaut status of next weekend's U of A/Utah collision for the rest of the country, but we still understand that the two heavyweights of the Pac-12 are about to explode. No matter their ranking, we'll hype this matchup like a prize fight in the upcoming week.
Stanford 78 (11-4, 3-1), USC 76 (9-7, 1-3): Despite a ferocious 17-5 run at the conclusion of the game, the Trojans just didn't have enough in the tank to make the stunning comeback at home.
For the majority of the contest, it reaffirmed that Stanford was indeed the third best team in this conference, even without Reid Travis. You can say that's because USC isn't all that good, and how can we judge them off that, but the core of Randle, Nastic, and Brown could score on anybody.
What was huge for the Cardinal was the emergence of Rosco Allen off the bench. He would actually take the most shots of any player on the floor for either side (14), finishing the night with 18 points, while going 4-for-8 from three-point range. Despite those contributions, Anthony Brown took over, scoring 21 points, snatching 10 rebounds, and dishing out five assists to earn player of the game honors.
All nine players the Trojans put on the floor would score, but from many, like Katin Reinhardt, they needed more. With Jordan McLaughlin back, and coming off the bench for 14 points, they needed more than five points on 2-for-8 shooting from Reinhardt, despite playing less than half the game.
It was quite fitting that USC would have the ball in their hands down one with a chance to win it at the buzzer, but McLaughlin would lose the ball on a turnover. They wouldn't even get a shot up.