Robert Upshaw's departure ends Washington's NCAA Tournament hopes.
Washington's success this season has largely been because of their defense. And the anchor to that defense was Robert Upshaw. Upshaw was averaging 10.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and an astounding 4.4 blocks per game, which leads the nation. Nigel Williams-Goss is arguably the Huskies' best player, but Upshaw is certainly their most important. He's the main reason Washington is blocking 12.2 percent of opponents' shots at the rim and forcing opponents to shoot 38.6 percent on two-pointers.
The school announced on Monday that Upshaw had been dismissed from the team for violating team rules. His departure essentially ends all hopes that the Huskies had to make the NCAA Tournament. After a scorching 11-0 start, Washington had cooled off and became a bubble team, but there was plenty of time left to earn their spot in the field of 68. Now, without one of the best rim protectors in the country and the injury to Jernard Jerrau, there is little reason for optimism. And to make matters worse, Washington did what it needed to this week picking up a win at Colorado and splitting the mountain road trip. Their resurgence in conference play will come to a halt and the Huskies will likely revert back to an average defensive team.
Oregon State's season keeps getting more and more unbelievable.
The chances of Oregon State making the NCAA Tournament with each passing weekend in the Pac-12 continue to grow. I don't think you can praise Wayne Tinkle and the Beavers enough. They are currently tied at third in the conference with a 5-2 record and have a great chance to finish in the top four in the Pac-12. They have the 16th most efficient defense and the sixth best three-point defense in the nation. And you cannot say it enough: This team was not supposed to win more than a couple games in conference play.
If you need a reason to tune in, look no further than Gary Payton II. Watching him wreak havoc in passing lanes, constantly crowd opposing players and pester them with his quick hands never gets old. He has the third best steal rate in the country and is averaging an absurd three steals per game. In Oregon State's 66-55 win over UCLA, he had 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. In their 59-55 win over USC, he had 21 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. He is the only game-changing player on the roster. And his ability to make clutch baskets like he did against USC, coupled with the increasingly dominant zone defense, is allowing the Beavers to continue to squeak by.
Wayne Tinkle should already have Pac-12 Coach of the Year locked up, and an argument can be made right now for National Coach of the Year. But if the Beavers make the NCAA Tournament, there's no way any other coach should get that award. Also, are the Beavers going to lose at home this season?
Wesley Gordon was a machine for Colorado.
It hasn't been the greatest season for the Buffaloes. They've been without Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson for some of conference play and suffered some tough losses earlier in the season. But over the past week, one bright spot popped up for Colorado and it was Wesley Gordon. Even though the Buffs lost to Washington in the final second, Gordon made his presence known to all of the Huskies. He grabbed 17 rebounds, with eight of them coming on the offensive glass and added 10 points as well while only picking up two fouls. Against Washington State, he was all over the boards once again. The redshirt sophomore had consecutive double-doubles and scored 10 points and collected 14 rebounds.
It doesn't seem like the Buffaloes will be making the NCAA Tournament this season, but if this two-game outburst could spark Gordon to a more active role going forward, especially when Josh Scott returns, the Buffs could be terrorizing teams inside. Gordon has the athleticism and ability to rebound with almost any player in the country, it just depends on his effort and aggressiveness.
There are few players in the country that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson cannot shut down.
After limiting Delon Wright in the second half, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did the exact same against Chasson Randle in Arizona's 89-82 win over Stanford on Thursday night. Randle did score 26 points, but he did it on 7-of-18 shooting and most of the times Randle got to the line in the second half, it was against defenders not named Rondae.
Randle went 4-for-12 in the final 20 minutes and Hollis-Jefferson bothered him every possession they matched up. It was obvious coming into the season that Hollis-Jefferson was an elite defender and he just proved his case even more by shutting down the two best scorers in the conference in back-to-back weeks.