Oregon State has a chance to finish in the middle of the Pac-12
It's remarkable what Wayne Tinkle has done in such a short time as head coach in Corvallis. For the Beavers to take down a Final Four contender like Arizona, with the lack of talent they have, is a testament to the coaching staff and the way they have prepared their players. Oregon State is 55th in defensive efficiency in the country and is allowing 93.8 points per 100 possessions. Last season, they allowed 107.1 points per 100 possessions and in the past four years under Craig Robinson, they couldn't crack a rating below 100.
More importantly, Oregon State knows what they have to do to win. They slow the game down, they throw some zone defense at their opponent and they just make the game tiring. Both of Oregon State's wins over Arizona and Arizona State weren't fun or exciting basketball to watch, but it was the necessary way to win. There were only 57 possessions against the Sun Devils and against the Wildcats, there were only 55.
There really isn't as large of a gap as expected between the Beavers and other middle of the pack teams and that's incredibly impressive considering they were picked to finish last in the Pac-12. And if they can beat one of the top 10 teams in the country, they shouldn't be counted out at home against anyone anymore.
UCLA's Kevon Looney is the x-factor for the Bruins
The Bruins' early struggles in conference play could be credited to the fact that they had very little consistent offensive firepower and Bryce Alford had to shoulder too much of the load. But the emergence of Kevon Looney should give UCLA some more consistency on offense going forward.
The freshman was instrumental against Stanford going off for 27 points and 19 rebounds. He attempted 17 free-throws, imposed his will inside, took advantage of foul trouble and hit a couple key threes. He followed that up with 15 points and seven rebounds in the 73-54 win over Cal.
There's no questioning Looney's potential. He can stretch the floor, score inside, take players off the dribble and provide instant offense for the Bruins. But he'll have to continue to be more involved in the offense for UCLA to have sustained success.
Washington and Cal have fallen off a cliff
After a 10-1 start from Cal and a 11-0 start from Washington, the teams have dropped to 11-6 and 11-4 respectively.
For Cal, the offense was once again a major issue when they faced off with USC and UCLA. In their 71-57 loss to the Trojans, only two players were in double figures. In their 73-54 loss to UCLA, only one player was in double figures. The defense has continued to be less effective as well. The Bears are giving up 105.6 points per 100 possessions and only scoring 93.8 points per 100 possessions in conference play. Couple that with the loss of Jabari Bird, and it makes sense why Cal has plummeted in the Pac-12.
Up north, Washington hasn't fared well on the defensive side of the ball either. The defense was the reason the Huskies were so successful earlier in the year. But they gave up 80 points in their loss to Washington State, are giving up 104.7 points per 100 possessions and are only forcing 7.6 turnovers in Pac-12 play.
The emergence of the Stanford wings
Anthony Brown came into the season as the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year in the Pac-12, and he has improved once again for Stanford. The 6-foot-6 forward scored 21 points, went 5-for-5 from three, had eight rebounds and four assists against the Bruins and had 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against the Trojans. He's upped his scoring average by three points so far this season and his offensive rating and usage rate are both up from last season as well.
After playing in one game last season and missing the rest due to injury, Rosco Allen has stepped up offensively to help Stanford balance out the scoring as well. Allen's 6-foot-9 frame combined with his ability to stretch the floor has given the Cardinal another threat for opposing defenses. Allen had 14 points in the loss to the Bruins and 18 points in the win over the Trojans.
Ultimately, both Brown and Allen are critical to Stanford's hopes to stay near the top of the Pac-12 standings. Chasson Randle is one of the top scorers in the conference, but if Brown and Allen give the Cardinal the secondary scoring they need, Stanford is the easiest to defend as the frontrunner for the third spot in the Pac-12.