Miller: Week 1 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball in Review

The Conference went a collective 16-6, with some impressive wins and surprising loses

Posted on December 2, 2020

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The first week of Pac-12 Hoops is in the books. In keeping with the drama that makes college basketball great, the Conference saw its share of highs and lows. Here’s a roundup of the action.

The preseason favorite to win the Conference of Champions dropped an important game to San Diego State and then needed triple overtime to take care of Pepperdine. The Bruins were without starting big man Jalen Hill in both games, but the 15-point loss to the Aztecs on opening night was a let down.

Bobby Hurley and Arizona State struggled at times in their opener against Rhode Island, even as Remy Martin posted 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting. But the 6-point win allowed the Sun Devils to face then No. 3 Villanova in what was easily the biggest game for the Pac-12 in Week One.

Josh Christoper put up 28 points and Alonzo Verge Jr. added 22, but ASU lost by nine as Remy Martin only managed to score 5 points. On the bright side, Marcus Bagley has been impressive through three games. The less-heralded freshman figures to make Arizona State even better than some expected.

Colorado put together two strong performances in Manhattan, Kansas, including a true road win over Kansas State. The 18-point victory was important for the Buffs’ postseason prospects, and it further reinforced the Pac-12’s revised image.

McKinley Wright IV led the way with 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting, but CU’s poise in handling the early KSU run was just as impressive. Tad Boyle appears to have a solid unit, especially with the way freshman Jabari Walker and transfer Jeriah Horne have quickly fit in.

Similarly, USC has exceeded expectations through three games. The Trojans needed overtime in their opener against Cal Baptist, but played better against Montana and then destroyed a respected BYU team that features Purdue transfer Matt Haarms.

The 26-point demolition of the Cougars could prove to be vital for the Men of Troy’s NCAA Tournament expectations, and it doubled as a resounding message to the national experts who predicted a BYU victory. Freshman Evan Mobley has looked like the lottery pick many expect him to be, but Rice transfer Drew Peterson’s performances have been essential to Andy Enfield’s 3-0 start.

After their season opener was postponed, even Jerod Haase wasn’t quiet sure how his Stanford team would play against Alabama. That question was quickly answered as the Tree embarrassed a well-respected Alabama team 82-64.

Ziaire Williams shined in the opener with 19 points, displaying his silky smooth shot that is sure to earn him tens of millions of dollars in the NBA. The Cardinal then faced No. 14 North Carolina early in the afternoon on Tuesday. Despite outplaying the Tar Heels for most of the game, Stanford couldn’t get it done in a 67-63 losing effort.

Down in Tucson, Arizona has already been dealt three Coronavirus postponements despite running a clean ship. The positive tests amongst its scheduled opponents have prevented the Cats from developing the much-needed chemistry that only game reps bring.

In the lone matchup against Grambling State, Sean Miller led his team to an uneven 19-point win on the back of James Akinjo’s and Jordan Brown’s 19-point performances. Freshman Ben Mathurin had the best opening game of the seven Arizona freshman that make up the No. 1 recruiting class in the Pac-12. The Canadian posted 12 points on a somewhat erratic 2-for-7 from the field.

In a surprise start to the season, Oregon State handled California and Northwest University in Corvallis. Transfer Warith Alatishe went a combined 11-for-16 and 25 points over the two games, providing an unexpected weapon for Wayne Tinkle to utilize.

Senior Ethan Thompson played well enough to secure the victories, averaging 16 points and 66% from three in the opening week. If Thompson increases his efficiency as the season wears on, it’s not out of the question for the Beavers to shock a few conference opponents.

Things are not quite as rosy in Pullman. Despite have the Conference’s 4th best recruiting class, the Cougars have struggled without CJ Elleby. Washington State came from behind to topple both Texas Southern and Eastern Washington, but Isaac Bonton has been wildly inefficient.

The senior leader is 10-for-41 from the field through two games, a dangerously unsustainable mark that hurts the team. Bonton’s 28 points against Texas Southern was the difference, but he needs help from his teammates moving forward. Noah Williams is the apparent answer. The guard put up 19 against Eastern Washington after going scoreless against Texas Southern, while center Efe Abogidi has been the pillar of consistency with 9.5 points per game and 80% shooting from the floor.

But Washington takes the cake for most disappointing start to the year. The Dawgs were unsurprisingly dismantled by No. 2 Baylor in a 86-52 trouncing in Las Vegas, and then followed it up with a shocking 57-42 defeat to UC Riverside. Mike Hopkins’ offense has been nonexistent through two games and a scoring threat outside Quade Green has yet to emerge.

It’s not easy to replace two First Round draft picks, but a 15-point loss to UC Riverside is jaw-dropping. Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt the Pac-12 much in the grand scheme of things due to the low expectations in Seattle for this season.

In Berkeley, the Bears dropped the opener against Oregon State in Corvallis but gutted out a solid 60-49 victory over Nicholls State. The win over the mid-major should energize Mark Fox’s players, though someone other than Matt Bradley needs to get it together.

The All-Conference guard put up 26 against Nicholls State and Grant Anticevich added 11. Fox needs Anticevich to play with more consistency if Cal is to improve on last year’s better than expected season. And the Bears may do well to start Andre Kelly instead of bringing him in off the bench.

We have yet to see the Oregon Ducks and Utah Utes through the first week. UO had several games postponed due to positive COVID tests among its scheduled opponents. And UU is dealing with a rash of virus cases among its players and staff.

Be sure to check out Dane’s Previews of Week 2 Games, as well as the the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Standings. Have a question for Dane? Ask it here.

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