Ben Margot / AP
Reed Saxon / AP
With the Pac-12 Conference schedule officially at the halfway point, this much for certain is true.
There is Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA. And then there is everyone else.
When it’s all said and done USC, Utah, and Cal might have something to say about the exclusivity of that front-running bunch, especially after UCLA’s loss to the cross-town Trojans last week pulled the now 11th-ranked Bruins into a three-way tie for third.
Still, the overall talent level at Arizona, Oregon and UCLA sets them apart from the pack. And given Arizona and Oregon already have collected victories against the Bruins, with Arizona’s occurring in Los Angeles, those two programs dominate the driver’s seat at the midseason turn.
“Oregon and Arizona have separated themselves,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “They’ve separated themselves by the consistency that they’ve played with, the fact that offensively they’re both very efficient, very consistent. And defensively they’re both very efficient and both very consistent.
“Obviously UCLA I think is one of the most talented offensive teams in the country, if not the most. USC is talented. Cal is talented. You look at the standings and it shakes itself out. To me, we’re the anomaly. We’re the ones that are, ‘Whoa, how are they 2-7?’ But the reason is we’ve not finished games we needed to finish.”
Arizona, which climbed to No. 5 in this week’s AP top 25 poll, visits No. 13 Oregon on Saturday. Thanks to the Buffaloes’ upset win against Oregon on Saturday, a victory by Arizona (assuming both Arizona and Oregon win on Thursday) would give the Wildcats a two-game lead atop the conference standings.
Perhaps an overlooked game in the league this week will be on Thursday, as Utah visits Cal (7 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network). Both teams are 6-3 and locked in a three-way tie for third-place in the league alongside UCLA, with Utah suffering its three losses against the talented trio of Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. Cal also has lost to those three teams while winning four of its past five games. After struggling against Oregon, Cal big man Ivan Rabb has shot 12-for-19 over the past two games.
When George King picked up a turnover deep in Oregon State’s half of the court last week, CU’s junior attacked the basket with intent. The ensuing emphatic dunk over the Beavers’ 6-foot-8 Ben Kone and 3-point play recorded by King late in the first half was named the “#12Best Play of the Week” by the Pac-12 Network.
USC guard Shaqquan Aaron was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. Aaron went 6-for-12 from the field and 7-for-8 on free throws while finishing with 23 points off the bench to lead the Trojans’ upset of UCLA…On Monday, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball were named as finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in the nation.