Chris Pietsch / FR24134 AP
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Not that it will necessarily change the fortunes of the reeling Colorado men’s basketball program, but they Buffaloes may catch a break later this week.
No. 10 Oregon comes to town Saturday, just two days after the Buffs attempt to finally break into the Pac-12 Conference win column against Oregon State. At this point it seems likely the Ducks will be without leading scorer Dillon Brooks, who suffered a sprained left foot in last week’s game against Cal.
Brooks, who averages 13.4 points a game, missed Saturday’s game at Stanford. Given Brooks also missed the first four games of the season while recovering from offseason foot surgery, it is not unreasonable to believe the Ducks will proceed cautiously with their top scorer.
Brooks, who hit the winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer against UCLA in a memorable Pac-12-opening game in late December, is one of five Oregon players averaging double-figure points. That group also includes Chris Boucher (13.2), Tyler Dorsey (12.8), Dylan Ennis (11.6), and Jordan Bell (11.0).
While Oregon State has struggled even more mightily than the Buffs, it’s not out of the question the Beavers could enjoy a huge boost Thursday night at the Coors Events Center with a possible return from sophomore Tres Tinkle.
Tinkle averaged 20.2 points through the first six games of the season before getting sidelined by an injury to his right (non-shooting) wrist. Tinkle expressed hope to area reporters two weeks ago that he could return for the Beavers’ rivalry game against Oregon on Jan. 14, but he did not play against the Ducks and remained sidelined for OSU’s home losses this past weekend against Stanford and Cal.
Look out for Arizona.
Last week Arizona and Allonzo Trier himself finally confirmed long-rumored rumblings that the sophomore guard’s season-long suspension was due to failed test for PEDs, and that his return would be dependent on the substance getting fully cleansed from Trier’s system.
That comeback occurred Saturday, with Trier scoring 12 points in his debut as the Wildcats knocked off then-No. 3 UCLA on the road to take a two-game lead atop the Pac-12 standings alongside Oregon. The result also caused a significant shuffle in this week’s AP top 25 poll, with UCLA dropping to No. 8 and Arizona climbing from No. 14 to No. 7.
Props for Utah
Arizona coach Sean Miller has done a masterful job of keeping the Wildcats competitive through injuries and Trier’s suspension. His counterpart from UCLA, Steve Alford, has the Bruins playing at an elite level in a season that began with Alford on the hot seat.
Yet as the Pac-12 schedule nears its halfway point, my midseason nod for coach of the year goes to Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak. After losing big man Jakob Poeltl to the NBA draft the Utes were picked eighth in the league’s preseason coaches poll. Yet Krystkowiak has been able to integrate midseason transfer additions Sedrick Barefield and David Collette into the Kyle Kuzma-led rotation seamlessly, with the Utes taking a 5-2 league mark into Thursday’s home date against Oregon.
Arizona 7-footer Lauri Markkanen won the Pac-12 Player of the Week honor after scoring 23 points in a win against USC and adding 18 in the Wildcats’ victory against USC. Markkanen, the fifth freshman to win the honor this season, went 14-for-22 from the field…After hitting CU for a season-best 37 points, Washington freshman Markelle Fultz continued his tear by scoring 30 against Utah. He has three consecutive 30-point games, and his five 30-point games this season already is tied for the fifth-most in UW history.