Posted on December 28, 2019
Ihe Conference doesn’t have a uniform opening weekend for all 12 teams, but Sunday marks the first day of Pac-12 games. It’s set up to be a good one.
On the Court
Overall, the league had a good week on the court, but it wasn’t without bumps in the road. The biggest bump was for former-No. 1 Stanford. The Cardinal had a few close calls earlier in the season, but they always managed to escape. On Dec. 22, that finally ended.
The Tree went to Austin to face the unranked Longhorns: A Texas team that has been up and down in the early going—including getting dominated on their home court by Arizona—got their biggest upset of the year when Stanford came calling.
|Ashten Prechtel vs.Texas | Don Feria/ISIPhotos.com via Stanford Athletics|
The Longhorns got out to a quick start, taking a six-point lead in the first quarter. They pushed it to a nine-point lead by the half. The Cardinal tried to come back in the third quarter, outscoring the home team by ten, but it wasn’t enough. Texas used a 23-17 final frame to come away with a 69-64 victory.
It was enough to get the Longhorns back into the rankings for the first time since Arizona beat them in week two. It was also enough to knock the Cardinal off the top rung.
In the Rankings
With Stanford’s loss, it opened the door for the first non-Pac-12 team to take over No. 1 in the polls. While various pollsters and pundits had Twitter campaigns for the Oregon State Beavers to leap to the top, the voters went the more traditional route. They moved No. 2 Connecticut to the top line. The Pac-12 retained its four spots in the top 10 of both polls, though. The Oregon Ducks were once again the top-ranked team in the league, moving up to No. 2 in both the AP and the USA Today/WBCA polls. Right behind them in both polls was Oregon State at No. 3, a program record.
The Cardinal was dropped to No. 4 by the coaches. The media hit them a little bit harder, putting them at No. 5. The UCLA Bruins wrapped up the top 10 by taking the tenth spot in both polls. The Conference kept five teams in the top 25 with Arizona completing the group. The Wildcats stayed at No. 18 in the AP poll. The coaches moved them up a spot to No. 18, putting both polls in agreement.
Colorado and Arizona State remained outside knocking on the door. Both teams received votes from the media, while the coaches continued giving love to the Sun Devils.
Players of the Week
The UCLA Bruins had the biggest win of the week when they traveled to Bloomington and knocked off then-No. 12 Indiana. They had already completed the road victory over Georgia earlier in the week. It was enough to get star forward Michaela Onyenwere the nod as Player of the Week.
The junior had a double-double against the Hoosiers and was just shy against the Bulldogs. For the week, she averaged 22.0 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. She beat out nine other nominees for her first weekly honor.
Meanwhile, Jaz Shelley was the second member of the Oregon Ducks to take Freshman of the Week this season. Her crowning achievement came against UC Riverside when she broke the Ducks’ single-game record with 10 3-pointers. She ended the game with 32 points to become the first Oregon freshman to score at least 30 points since 2013-14.
This year, all conference games will be aired for the first time. Most games will be on the Pac-12 Networks, but a few will be carried by one of the ESPN networks.
No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (11-0) at Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2)
When: Dec. 29 at 11 a.m. PT/12 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Arizona
For the first time since 2002-03, the Wildcats will come in as the higher-ranked team. Arizona has been a force on defense. Analytics site Her Hoop Stats has them rated as the No. 6 team in Division I on the defensive side of the ball. They aren’t too bad on offense, either, where they rated No. 50.
As for the Sun Devils, they are always strong on defense and this year is no different. They are rated at No. 40 on defense and No. 74 on offense.
Neither team has played a very challenging schedule so far this year. Arizona’s win over Texas was its lone major-conference opponent. Both of ASU’s major-conference opponents (Purdue and Minnesota) defeated them. So, this will be a big step up in competition for both teams.
Colorado Buffaloes (11-0) at Utah Utes (7-4)
When: Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Mountain
Colorado was picked to finish dead last in the conference by both the coaches and the media. Things have gone much better than expected in the early going.
While it’s true that the Buffs haven’t played the toughest schedule, they haven’t played the worst in the conference, either. They have the fifth highest RPI in the league at No. 47 with only Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA and Oregon ahead of them.
Their opponents were picked to finish seventh by both group of voters, but have put together an unimpressive pre-conference resume. More alarming, the Utes will enter conference play with the worst RPI in the Pac-12 at No. 196. They have a lot of work to do if they hope to reach the postseason. They could get things going in the right direction with a win at home on Sunday.
USC Women of Troy (8-3) at No. 10 UCLA Bruins (11-0)
When: Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Los Angeles
The Women of Troy were hit hard by graduation and transfers after last season. They returned only one starter, center Kayla Overbeck. Across town, the Bruins returned a strong group that included stars like Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean.
As would be expected from a team trying to integrate a lot of new parts, USC has been a bit inconsistent, but they’re putting together a good season in the early going. The Women of Troy have faced four major-conference opponents. They’ve gone 2-2 against them with wins over Alabama and Virginia.
The Bruins have an unblemished record that includes three games against major conference opponents. Their biggest win came just last week against Indiana.
The L.A. teams have comparable schedules with wins over three common teams, but the Bruins have the higher profile. Can the Women of Troy steal some of that attention on Sunday?
Washington Huskies (8-3) at Washington State Cougars (7-5)
When: Dec. 29 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Washington
As tough as the Pac-12 is, the Cougars may be happy it’s time for conference play. They spent non-conference playing one tough team after another. Washington State couldn’t break through against any of those teams, but they certainly know what it means to face overwhelming opponents. Whether that proves helpful or not remains to be seen.
The Huskies went with the opposite tactic in scheduling, playing only one opponent from a major conference. Vanderbilt defeated Washington in that match-up just last week.
If a tough schedule really makes a difference in preparing a team for conference play, the Cougs should be ready to start conference play 1-0.
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